Grief and Loss

Loss is an inevitable part of our lives however, we each experience the journey in very unique ways. The goals in working through grief are not to avoid or bypass the emotional turmoil resulting from the loss but to work through it. Grief is the normal, appropriate emotional response to loss. It is unique to the individual experiencing it and there is no general timetable for getting through it.

In our society, the grief process is often seen as something to "get over" quickly. Sometimes, given the type of loss, it is seen as unnecessary, a sign of weakness or pathology.

Grief is, in fact, a sign of health, vibrancy and the capacity to love and to attach.  It’s an important element in emotional and psychological development, dependent on how we approach the grief process. Ironically, slowing down to pay attention to our grief is the best way to "get through" it.  Some people mistake grief as a feeling. However, it is actually a complex process of recreating the self and is the natural response to every loss.  Although death of a loved one is the most dramatic loss we confront, it's only one of many losses we face throughout a healthy lifetime; moving, changing jobs, ending relationships, inability to conceive, launching children, the death of a pet,  are but some of the others.  In seeking professional help, you have the opportunity to heal, grow and develop resiliency in very unique ways...emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually.

If you or someone you know is dealing with loss, the following suggestions may help in coping:

1. Give yourself permission to feel the pain and loss.

2. Be patient with the process and don't pressure yourself with certain expectations.

3. Express your feelings. Let yourself cry. Both are necessary for healing.

4. Get support. Talk about your loss, your memories, and your experiences of the life and death of your loved one.

5. Try to maintain your basic lifestyle and routines. Avoid making major life changes (moving, changing jobs, altering important relationships or beginning a new relationship) within the first year of bereavement.

6. Prepare for holidays and anniversaries. Decide if you want to continue certain traditions or create new ones. Rituals can be a significant source of comfort.

Here are some suggestions for helping someone who is grieving:

1. Acknowledge the situation. For example, "I heard that your _______died." Use the word died rather than a euphemism. This will show that you are more open to listening to how the person really feels.
2. Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings. For example, "I'm not sure what to say but I want you to know I care."

3. Offer your support. Don't wait for them to call you but rather, reach out as often as you can.

4. Ask how they feel when you call or visit, rather than assume that you know.

© 2019, Sherry Warschaw, LMFT

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