Grief can occur due to any type of loss. Emotions that are upsetting or challenging can be felt and experienced in many different ways. Some people may experience grief as a trickling stream and some as a roaring river. Grief can be experienced as a result of many different reasons, such as an end of a relationship or divorce, loss of a job or pet, etc. However, grief is most often associated with death. Part of what makes grief so unpredictable is that so few of us know how to talk about it and understand the emotions we are feeling. Some people find it easier to talk about break-ups and divorces. Others have a story about getting fired or having an illness. But how often does anyone truly open up about their feelings of grief, especially if it’s a death, and know what to do to make themselves feel better to get through their time of grief?
Most people don’t know how to speak to grief. Some of the typical phrases are:
- “He’s in a better place now.”
- “At least she’s not suffering anymore.”
- “You have to be strong.”
- “It’s time to let go and move on.”
What remains unspoken in those statements is the pain and suffering the person who has experienced the loss is feeling.
Symptoms of grief:
Grief manifests in various ways, many of which are similar to depression:
- Sleep issues
- Poor appetite
- Guilt, remorse, regrets and sadness
- Low energy
- Loss of interest in activities
- Irritability and anger
- Social withdrawal
What is “complicated” grief?
Not all grief is created equal. It becomes “complicated” when feelings of guilt, anger, numbness, detachment, or depression set in. Some signs of complicated grief include:
- Single-minded focus on grief and/or the deceased loved one
- Extreme avoidance of anything that reminds you of your loss
- Unwillingness to accept your loss
- Irritability, agitation, bitterness
- Inability to enjoy life or carry out daily functions
- Intense guilt or self-blame
- Thoughts of your own death or suicide
This is when grief therapy would be necessary or even an urgent choice.
How Grief Therapy Can Help You
When I work with clients for grief therapy, I encourage them to express themselves at whatever phase of the grief they are in. This is one of the most important aspects of processing a loss. It is also why grief therapy can be so important and helpful. I listen with compassion, acceptance and no judgement to all the thoughts and feelings that are expressed. We need to be listened to, cared about and supported. We want to be heard. Meeting regularly with me for grief counseling or being in a grief counseling group is a big step towards feeling you are heard and supported, in what you’re going through. Grief therapy offers a powerful form of validation. It is a valuable part of healing.
Here are two helpful tools:
Writing is a common healing practice. In terms of grief, it gives you a chance to let your feelings out. A powerful exercise involves writing your feelings about whatever emotions you may be experiencing. This can not only facilitate acceptance but also offers some resolution.
In times of crisis, our thinking can create confusion and isolation. After a loss, we may think: “No one understands me.” We might say: “I’m all alone in this,” or “I don’t know how I will survive this.” I will gently help you to get through the difficult emotions and beliefs and move toward acceptance of the grief, so you can move forward in your life with more ease.
Perhaps most importantly, grief therapy reminds you that you are not alone. Help is only a phone call away.