Grief and Bereavement
None of us get through life without experiencing grief and bereavement. They are a part of life, just as love, joy, excitement, and hope are a part of life. Grief is a normal human response to any type of loss, and bereavement is the process of recovering from the death of a loved one.
If you are experiencing grief or bereavement, it can be the worst pain you’ve ever felt. You may struggle to keep going. Life just hasn’t been the same since your loss. There may be times when you feel like you can barely breathe or have trouble simply getting out of bed. Nothing seems enjoyable anymore. Socializing requires too much energy. You may be experiencing all kinds of feelings, including deep sadness, fear, anger, rage, confusion, guilt, and even relief.
There may be other times when you don’t feel anything at all like. You feel like you’re in a fog. Or, for a brief moment, it seems as though the loss didn’t really happen. You think to yourself, “Maybe it was just a bad dream, or I imagined it.” But then, suddenly, you’re faced with that horrible reality again, and the pain comes back tenfold. It seems like there is a huge void inside of you that nothing can fill, and your greatest fear is that this feeling will last forever.
Unfortunately, grief and bereavement are topics that people are often not comfortable talking about. There seems to be an unwritten rule in our society that says that people are not allowed to talk about how they are feeling about a loss after only a very brief period of time. As much as you may try to quickly forget about and move on from your loss, the feelings just won’t go away no matter how hard you try to ignore them.
People in your life may tell you, “You’re doing great,” because you haven’t shed a tear. The truth is, you may want to cry, but the tears just won’t come, or you’re holding them back because you’re afraid that if you start crying, people will see you as weak, or you won’t be able to stop crying. On the other hand, maybe you’ve been expressing your feelings, and others are saying to you, “It happened weeks ago (or even years ago). Just get over it already.” It may even seem like other people are avoiding you or don’t know what to say to you about your loss.
Everyone deals with loss in their own unique and deeply personal way, and that’s ok. We all experience grief and bereavement differently depending on many different factors, including our unique personality, cultural and religious background, experiences with past losses, beliefs about the loss, use of coping skills, how much social support we have, our relationship to the person who passed away if the loss was a death or the end of a relationship, and others.
Many of us have heard that when people have suffered a loss, they experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but that’s just one theory. When we face a loss, we can experience a wide range of emotions, not necessarily in any particular order or on any given timeline. Your timeline is yours alone.
It might feel like the feelings about a loss come in waves, building in intensity and then subsiding. Things may seem fine for a while, and then when a significant time of year is approaching, such as the anniversary of the loss, a birthday, or a holiday, feelings can become quite intense again.
The loss may have happened a long time ago, and you thought you were finally “over it,” but then something – perhaps a memory, picture, song, scent, object, time of year, or even a happy occasion – takes you right back to the darkest and most difficult feelings you experienced soon after the loss occurred.
For many people, engaging in therapy for grief and bereavement can help. As a therapist, I won’t get tired of listening to you talk about the loss and will not judge any of the feelings you’re having. Every emotion is ok. I will be walking beside you during the difficult and painful moments of your journey.
Over time, processing and experiencing your toughest feelings about the loss will likely improve your mood and functioning and help you return to living life to its fullest. This will happen not because you’ve forgotten about the loss or it wasn’t important, but because you grew wiser and stronger for having experienced the loss. By getting through this challenging time, you may even move on to experience life with a newfound sense of wisdom and purpose.
Below are some examples of the types of losses we may experience in life. As a 60-year-old woman, I have experienced most of these losses at one time or another, often more than once, and along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating loss, grief, and bereavement.
My hope for you is that you don’t have to experience this journey alone. I can teach you about grieving and bereavement, help you to identify insights and areas of strength and support, and provide you with coping skills along the way.
Examples of Types of Losses We Experience
- Death of someone close to us, including due to illness, violence, or suicide
- Loss of a marriage or relationship (that is, any type of relationship, including with an intimate partner, family member, friend, or other)
- Diagnosis of a medical or mental health condition
- Diagnosis of a terminal illness, either our own or that of someone close to us
- Loss due to change or difference in physical functioning or appearance (for example, due to physical issues that were present from birth or due to an accident, injury, surgery, or aging)
- Loss of the past that you wish you’d had (for example, wishing you had had both parents in the home, had the type of relationship with your family that you wanted, that you didn’t have an abusive parent, that you didn’t have a parent who abused alcohol or other substances, or that you had been able to remain with your birth parents)
- Loss of a future that you were hoping for (for example, due to the death of a child, not getting married or having children, not having the education or career you had planned on having, or not having certain life experiences)
- Loss due to aging (for example, death of a partner, family members, and friends; loss of purpose; changes in health; loss of functioning; loss of independence; changes in appearance; changes in finances; changes in living situation; loss of roles due to a partner dying, children leaving home, or retirement; and isolation)
- Loss due to chronic pain (for example, due to loss of functioning, roles, activities, socialization, or the future you were hoping for)
- Losses of others (for example, if you’re a compassionate, sensitive person, you may deeply experience other people’s losses)
- Loss of a job or change in a job situation
- Change in financial circumstances
- Loss of a home via moving or other means
- Death or loss of a pet
If you’re struggling with grief or bereavement, please call me to schedule your free consultation to talk about how therapy can help. I look forward to hearing from you.