Have You Experienced An Unbearable Loss?
Your loved one has passed, and you can’t seem to recover. You’re plagued by sadness, guilt, and what-if’s.
Or maybe you’ve lost a pet, a relationship, a home, an ability, or another part of your life. The loss or change can be difficult, if not devastating.
You’re overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow, anger, guilt, or regret. You might find yourself having multiple, seemingly conflicting feelings at once or oscillating from one feeling to the next. You feel hopeless and unable to sort through all your thoughts and feelings.
Grief might show up in your body too. Perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping or eating. Maybe you feel lethargic or are struggling with pain, muscle tension, or stomach issues.
All of this is common in the grieving process.
While there are different theories about how people move through grief, one thing is clear – grieving is an individual experience. How you come to understand and process a loss will be different from how someone else approaches a similar loss. Some will face the loss head on, while others will approach the grieving process in small, palatable doses. Our backgrounds and histories with loss play a role, as do our current circumstances and supports.
There’s no right way to grieve.
The Many Types Of Grief
Grief is a cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual process. How you think, feel, act, connect to others, and connect to your faith or a higher power (or not) can influence how you grieve. Your progress can be intensified by mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, as well as the experience of prior losses, potentially creating a cumulative effect.
You might be surprised to learn that there are different types of grief. While there is no true “normal” when talking about grieving, we do speak about “normal grief.” This means that someone’s grieving is predictable, involves a set of physical/psychological reactions, and moves toward acceptance of the loss with improvement of these symptoms over time.
Grief is termed “complicated” when the grieving process interferes with daily functioning for a prolonged period of time. Chronic grief and delayed grief fall under the “complicated grief” umbrella.
Traumatic grief can occur as a result of a loss experienced as frightening, violent, or otherwise traumatic. Traumatic grief involves an impairment in functioning and is typified by feeling edgy and easily startled, avoidant, and by symptoms of re-experiencing (e.g., flashbacks or nightmares), features typically associated with trauma.
Grief is termed “disenfranchised” when someone’s support group or culture denies or invalidates their loss. Disenfranchised grief can occur when people are grieving animals, losses that don’t involve death, or the loss of someone they never knew, for instance.
Grief that occurs prior to a loss is known as “anticipatory grief.” We often see this type of grief when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness and loved ones have time to “prepare” for the loss. While anticipatory grief does not necessarily make grief after the loss any easier, it can allow loved ones to gradually metabolize the loss. Some are able to spend intentional time with their loved one prior to their passing, which can contribute to a sense of closure and reality acceptance.
Whatever type of grief you’re experiencing, know that your reactions make sense. Loss and change can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Approaching yourself with kindness and compassion are important first steps.
Grief Therapy at Gatewell
If you are concerned about coping with a loss, or if it feels like you’re becoming depressed or that you’re otherwise having difficulty functioning as a result of your loss, grief counseling is an important step to consider. At Gatewell Therapy Center, we can help you work through the intense feelings associated with your loss so that you can get back to living. In tandem with grief therapy, it is important to engage in regular self-care, to seek out social support, and to practice patience and compassion with yourself.
What To Expect
Grief counseling provides a safe, supportive space for you to talk about your loss. During your first session, we’ll get to know you and what you’re looking for in therapy. We’ll get a sense of where you are in your grief, as well as where you’d like to be. We might use assessment measures, such as the PHQ-9 or the PCL-5, during or after this meeting to get at more aspects of your experience. As we wrap up the initial session, we’ll come up with a plan for moving forward, based on your wants and needs.
How We Can Help You Grieve
- Supportive grief counseling, which can provide you space to process your loss in a safe, empathic space
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps you examine your thoughts around the loss, as well as take specific actions that will help you cope more effectively
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which teaches coping and reality acceptance skills
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), which helps you heal from traumatic grief
But You Might Still Have Concerns About Starting Grief Therapy . . .
I don’t think I’m ready to process the loss yet, but I do need help.
You can set the pacing of your therapy. It might be helpful for us to teach you some distress tolerance skills before you start to process your grief. Then, you’ll have tools to fall back on when experiencing waves of distress, and you can decide when you’re ready to move forward.
I don’t want to be in therapy long-term. I just want to process this loss.
That’s fine. It’s possible to do participate in grief counseling without delving deep into other aspects of your life. You can decide what you want to target in therapy and how long you’d like to attend.
I’m worried that accepting this loss is like a betrayal. Isn’t continuing to struggle with grief a way to honor a person or relationship?
It makes sense that you’d think that way, and it can be hard to “move on” from a loss. We believe, though, that it’s important to process and heal and that you can continue to find other ways to honor your loss without staying stuck in your grief.
Grief Counseling Can Help You Process Your Loss More Effectively
Grief has its own timeline; wherever you are in yours makes sense. Nevertheless, grieving can take its toll on our minds, our bodies, and our lives. At Gatewell Therapy Center, we stand in witness of your loss and can help you articulate and process your experiences in order to move through your grief more effectively. We also help you address some of the side effects of grief – depression, trauma, etc. – and come to a place of greater comfort and acceptance. There is hope that you can move through this loss and find peace on the other side.