Grief and Bereavement
During the course of our lives, we all experience some form loss. While for some, it may be the loss of a loved one or close friend, for other’s their grief may be experienced after the loss of a job or divorce. As unique as the loss that is experienced, the individuals experience of grief as a result of that loss are as unique.
What is Grief?
Simply put, grief can be defined as, “the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.” That said, grief is anything but simple, and grief may be normal but when an individual is experiencing it, it may not feel that way.
As mentioned above, although most people think of grief after the death of a loved one, grief can also be experienced after a variety of losses or life transitions including the loss of a job, home, relationship, pet, safety, etc. Whatever loss an individual may be experiencing, it is important to know that they’re not alone.
While grief should not be pathologized, if left unresolved, it can begin to create problems that result in depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use disorders, etc. While it may be difficulty to express the normal feelings of grief such as sadness, guilt, denial, shock, anger, resentment, and fear, within our society, it is important to do so in order to avoid developing mental illnesses.
How do you Treat Grief?
Everyone’s journey through grief is as unique as the type of loss and the value that an individual placed on what or who they lost. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind while navigating grief.
Reach out to supportive people. A supportive person may include a family member, a friend, spouse, support group, or therapist. It is important to allow the opportunity to talk about thoughts and feelings an individual may be experiencing as a result of the loss. We are not meant to live this life by ourselves, especially not when we’re struggling through grief.
Express feelings in a healthy way. Grief is not just one emotion but instead one word to describe the experience of many emotions. In the past, grief was thought to have steps that an individual would walk through till acceptance was obtained. Now it is seen as a fluid state that allows for variance and fluctuation. This means, that the emotions experienced as a result of grief, may ebb and flow. Initially, someone may experience denial after a loss and move towards sadness and then re-experience denial again. Additionally, an individual may reach acceptance after a loss and be triggered later in life. An example of this is if an individual’s parent dies at a young age and they have reached acceptance initially and then their grief is triggered after they become a parent. Although the length of time to resolve triggered grief may be shorter, it is still important to process the thoughts and feelings experienced.
Be Patient. This is easier said than done. Ultimately, in order to be successful at being patient with yourself after loss, it is important to have healthy expectations of how long the process of reaching acceptance will take. This process can take weeks, months, and sometimes years, and should not be compared to anyone else’s individual experience of grief. Again, an individual’s experience of grief is uniquely theirs.
The therapists at Oakheart have specific knowledge, experience, and sensitivity surrounding grief so if you or someone you know is struggling after a loss please call 630-570-0050 to set up an appointment.
Listen and learn as Erin Michell MSW, LCSW, a clinician who specializes in grief at OakHeart, discusses grief.