Grief and Loss

Dealing with loss is one of the most difficult universal struggles each of us will ever go through. It’s a strange thing, because all of us experience grief and loss, usually many times throughout our lives. And yet, each experience is wholly unique.

When you’re in the midst of loss, it can feel like you’re all alone. It feels like nobody else could ever possibly understand what you’re going through. Your entire world feels like its crashing down around you and it’s almost appalling that the world seems to keep right on spinning.

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Loss Can Affect You in Many Ways

Even if you’ve dealt with grief and loss before, it can hit you in new ways. Every relationship, be it with a person, place or thing, is completely different. So it’s no wonder that our grief feels different every time we experience it. Some of the stages of grief might be similar, and yet the variations are endless.

For example, one variation of grief is something called survivors guilt. This happens when someone who shares some trait with you (a person who works with you, someone with the same illness as you, a parent of one of your child’s friends) passes away, and you wonder why it was them and not you. Why do you get to survive when they don’t? You’re grieving, and this grief is unique because your relationship to that person was unique.

Loss can affect you even when no person has died. Dealing with the loss of a pet is one common example. Likewise, divorce or the end of a long-term relationship can cause you to feel grief even though there has been no death. The loss of that connection, that relationship to the person, place, or thing, feels like a death to us and we grieve that loss accordingly.

There are common stages that people go through when dealing with loss. The most famous list is the Kubler-Ross list of the five stages of grief. That framework says you’re likely to go through denial, bargaining, anger, and depression before finally beginning to accept the loss.

However, that is just one way to understand grief, and there are many other ways of looking at loss. Some professionals say that there are more than five stages of grief. Even if you identify with the five-stage model, it’s not linear. It’s not as though you feel denial for a set amount of time then move into bargaining. Instead, you may move back and forth between the different stages quickly or slowly over a long period of time. You may feel two conflicting things at once.

Loss can make you feel so many different ways. You might feel completely numb, unable to really process what has happened. You may feel immobilized by sadness. On the other hand, you may find that you have tons of restless energy and that the only way to get through the pain is to keep on moving and getting things done. You may even be surprised by your emotional reaction to a particular loss. Remember that whatever you feel is an honest, authentic, and perfectly appropriate response to grief and loss.

How to Cope with Your Grief

Grief is natural. When we lose someone or something, we feel sad about it. It can look a lot like depression, and it can even lead to depression, but grief itself is something different. Grief is a very real part of your life process. If you try to ignore it, then it’s only going to cause you problems. It’s much better for you if you find ways to cope with your grief so that you can process it and work past it. Getting past your grief doesn’t mean that you no longer miss the person or that you don’t care about them anymore. Instead, it means that you’ve been able to get beyond the pure pain of it so that you can also celebrate and appreciate the relationship that you had before the loss.

One important way to cope with your grief is to embrace rituals that help sustain you. Rituals are a way that we make it okay to acknowledge and express our emotions rather than pushing them from our consciousness. Some faith traditions have specific rituals around mourning, but you can create your own individual rituals that have meaning for you personally as well. Your therapist can help you find or create routine ways to acknowledge the loss and reflect on your feelings about it. In fact, for some people, the act of coming to therapy is a part of their mourning process and a ritual in itself.

Therapy Can Help

Dealing with loss is an entirely personal experience. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go through it alone. While no one can understand your exact experience, group therapy can help you remember that you are not the only one who is dealing with loss. Individual therapy can help you work through your own feelings so that you can better understand how to get through this time. It might feel like you will never stop being sad, but there’s light around the corner, and therapy can help you to find that light.

Humans are very narrative-driven. In other words, you see the world through the lens of your own story. When you experience a loss, it alters your story. You might wonder, “who am I without my mother?” Similarly, you might question whether you can be in another relationship after divorce. In other words, you lose the thread of your own story. We can help you find that thread again, updating your story so that you can move forward despite the loss. You can honor the past while still moving towards your own future.

If you want to learn more about therapy for grief, then contact us today.

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