Coping with Grief & Loss
This is a very normal sentiment for someone who has experienced a major loss. Recovering from grief requires persistence, tolerance of vulnerability, self-awareness, and courage. No doubt, this is difficult. However, the alternative to working through it is NOT GOOD. People who don’t work through their grief and emotions in some healthy manner almost always remain stuck in it. This results in significant long-term difficulties both physical and psychological.
When you suffer a significant loss, it is crucial to understand that:
- You will never be quite the same as before the loss
- In the case of the loss of a spouse or close family member, you may need to work on reformulating some of your identity. While this can be daunting, it’s also an opportunity for major learning and growth.
- With persistence, you can work through your sadness and grief
- Counseling for grief can be an essential part of coping with your loss
- You may occasionally or even frequently think of the person (or thing) you lost for a long time
- There is no set timetable for grief and loss. However, coming to grips with your thoughts and feelings is critical in working through the grief
It may be reassuring to know that many of us follow a general pattern in our grief process
What If I Don’t Feel Much Of Anything?
Let’s call this numbness. Over the years, I’ve worked with many individuals in grief therapy who don’t feel any strong emotions about their loss, or they feel emotions that they don’t think they ‘should’ feel. Understand this:
- What you feel is what you feel. Don’t judge it. There is no ‘should feel’ anything at this point.
- You may be feeling something you don’t think you ‘should’ feel. Anger, Numbness, Bitterness, Confusion, and Despair are common responses to loss. This is by no means a comprehensive list!
- Journaling can help you gain awareness of what is going on inside you
- Seeing a counselor for grief can help you work through your thoughts and emotions
You may have heard or know that there are 5 stages of grief and these don’t necessarily happen in order and can be repeated in various ways throughout experiencing grief. The Stages of Grief are…
Denial is the first of the five stages of grief™️. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger, and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.
Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response.
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it.
We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.
What If My Loss Isn’t Death?
Loss takes many forms in our lives. We can experience major disruption in our lives due to any of the following:
- Loss of a job
- Loss of a relationship (intimate partner, dear friend, etc)
- Moving to a new area. This means you’ve lost a lot of routines and people in your life!
- Loss of a pet. By itself, this can be heartbreaking, but loss of our pets can often bring up unresolved grief stemming from our ‘human losses’
- Loss of freedom, such as working in a new job where you don’t have the independence you used to have
- Loss of physical ability which may mean you are now more dependent on others
- Loss of sexual function
Here is an Alphabetic List of Types of Losses
- Loss of Body Function � hearing, vision, mental capacities, mobility, communication
- Loss of Body Image � body part through surgery, accident, change in appearance, aging
- Loss of Control � natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, social conditions, hospitalisation of loved one
- Loss of Freedom � political, employment, incarceration, stigmatised disease or culture impacting access to health care
- Loss of Health � medical conditions, illnesses, disability, debilitating or terminal diseases
- Loss of Home, Property � homelessness, natural or man-made disasters, aging, insolvency
- Loss of Identity – marriage, career, empty nest syndrome, relocation, retirement
- Loss of Independence � change in living situation e.g. entering nursing home, marriage
- Loss of Innocence � early sexual experiences, advertising and media influences children to grow up too soon
- Loss of Job, Income � downsizing, layoffs, retirement, career change
- Loss of One’s Own Life � death, suicide, accident, homicide, murder, war
- Loss of Plans, Hopes & Dreams for the Future � miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth, adoption, infertility, relationship, job, career
- Loss of Relationship � death, divorce, pet break-up, illness, adoption, miscarriage
- Loss of Religious Beliefs � questioning beliefs, disillusioned with church, organized religion, impact of sexual misconduct scandals
- Loss of Role � occupation, job, relationship e.g. parent, child, friend
- Loss of Safety � vulnerable feelings after rape, robbery, betrayal, unanticipated events, crises, traumatic events or disasters
- Loss of Sexual Function � from physical or psychological aetiology
- Loss of Significant Person � death, divorce, illness, relocation, military duty, missing person
- Loss of Treasured Object(s) � favourite objects, family heirlooms destroyed in fire/flood, theft
If you feel you have unprocessed Grief or Loss, seeing a Counsellor can help when we can open up about the thoughts, feelings and emotions in a safe environment in order to process and move forward. If you would like to meet with our counsellor, Janet Holyk, you can book an appointment through our website or call the clinic at 778-640-1119 for more information.