Overcoming Grief

grief counseling
There’s a huge debate among mental health professional as to whether grief can actually ever be overcome. Those who argue that it cannot claim that the best that we can hope for when processing grief is that it be managed. Either way, there are things that a grieving person can do to help the process along.

We have all experienced it. Losing someone or something we love or care deeply about is probably the most painful experience. Typically, a person with type of loss feels a lot of difficult emotions and is overwhelmed by pain and sadness.

Unfortunately, pain, suffering, and emotional upheaval are all normal reactions after a significant loss. Although there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are productive ways to cope with the loss and pain. 

The Nature of Grief

Grief is a common emotion and a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering a person experiences as a response to a major loss. The more significant the loss is, the more intense the grief tends to be. An individual usually has grief over the death of a loved one, but any type of loss can create grief, including the following:

  • End of a marriage or relationship
  • Employment termination
  • Retirement
  • Financial instability
  • Miscarriage
  • Death or loss of a pet
  • Decline in health
  • A loved one’s chronic illness
  • End of a friendship
  • Feeling unsafe after a trauma
  • Moving from a long-term home

As previously mentioned, the bigger the loss, the more intense the grief. Typically, when we think of grief, we think of losing a loved one. Of course, there are exceptions to this in that smaller losses can sometimes lead to significant grief. As an example, someone may experience grief after moving away losing a job they loved or graduating from college. Almost any loss can become traumatic. Dealing with loss is always a deeply personal experience, but there are a number of things that can be done to aid in the grief process.

Embrace the Feelings

Coping with the feelings of deep sadness over a loss can make a person want to avoid their feelings. The feelings can be so intense that they can make someone feel as if they are going crazy. For the most part, it is natural to feel this way. However, keep trying to move through the feelings. If a person finds they are having trouble functioning, it is probably time to get the help of a therapist.

Strengthen Support Systems

There may be times during the bereavement process when a person wants to be alone. Solitude can give someone time to reflect on the positive aspects of the relationship or thing that they have recently lost. However, too much isolation can also be a problem. It’s helpful to create a support system of friends, family, and a counselor such as a minister, rabbi, priest or therapist. Gather everyone who might be of help during the grief process.

Accept The Grieving Process

Accept that it is going to take time to process feelings of loss. Every person has their own way of coping with grief. Don’t put a limit on the amount of time it takes to process grief. Be gentle with yourself and allow the stages of grief as they come up. You will most likely experience the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although the final stage of grief is acceptance, this does not mean that, from time to time, you may not revisit some of the other stages. The goal is that over time the pain of your loss will become more manageable.

 

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. 

References

Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York, NY: Macmillan

McGolderick M, Walsh F (2011). Death, loss, and the family life cycle. In M McGoldrick et al., eds., The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives, 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Mojtabai R. (2011). Bereavement-Related Depressive Episodes: Characteristics, 3-Year Course, and Implications for the DSM-5. Archives of General Psychiatry. 68, 9, 920–8.

Newman BM, Newman PR (2012). Understanding death, dying, and bereavement. In Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Shear MK, et al. (2011). Complicated Grief and Related Bereavement Issues for DSM-5. Depression and Anxiety. 28, 2, 103–17.

Newman BM, Newman PR (2012). Understanding death, dying, and bereavement. In Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.