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Couple by a Lake

Loss and Grief

Loss and Grief
Published August 25, 2014 By Frances H. Herron, LPC

Life After Loss

Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process after a loss. The reasons for grief are many, including (among others) the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, and the letting go of a long-held dream. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person's life.

Different Kinds of Loss

Feelings of loss are very personal. Most people commonly associate many losses versus such as loss of a close friend or colleague, death of a partner, serious illness of a loved one, breakup of a long relationship, or death of a family member versus with strong feelings of grief. Subtle or less obvious losses can also cause strong feelings of grief, even when those around you fail to notice the extent of your feelings. Some examples of such losses: illness or loss of health, death of a pet, a change in jobs, a move into a new home, graduation from school, loss of some physical ability, and loss of financial security.

Sudden Loss versus Predictable Loss

Sudden shocking losses due to events such as crime, accidents or suicide can be particularly traumatic. Since there is no way to prepare for such events, these losses can challenge one's sense of security and confidence in the predictability of life. Survivors of sudden loss often experience symptoms such as sleep disturbance, nightmares, distressing thoughts, depressed mood, social isolation, or severe anxiety.

Predictable losses, such as eventual terminal illness, sometimes allow more time to prepare for the loss. However, predictable loss may also create two layers grief: the grief related to the anticipation of loss and the grief related to the loss itself.

How Long Does Grief Last?

There is no predictable schedule for grief; the length of the process is different for everyone. Although it can be quite painful at times, the grief process should not be rushed because it is important to be patient with yourself as you experience your unique reactions to loss. You will find that with time and support, things do get better.

It is normal for significant dates such as birthdays and holidays to trigger feelings related to loss. Taking care of yourself, seeking support, and acknowledging your feelings during these times are ways that can help you cope.

Normal Grief Reactions

  • Feeling like you are "going crazy"
  • Feeling frustrated or misunderstood
  • Feeling like you want to "escape"
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling numb
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Lacking energy and motivation
  • Being irritable or angry at the deceased, oneself, others, or higher powers
  • Experiencing anxiety, nervousness, or fearfulness
  • Experiencing guilt or remorse
  • Being ambivalent

Grief as a Process of Healing

It is important to understand that the grief process is not linear, but is generally experienced in cycles. Being patient with the process and allowing yourself to have any feelings whatever can help.

If you feel stuck in your grief, talk to a counselor or a supportive person who can help you move forward in the healing process.

Culture, Rituals, and Ceremonies

Your own cultural background can affect how you understand and approach the grief process. Grief rituals and ceremonies acknowledge the pain of loss while also offering social support and reaffirmation of life.

You may not be aware of how your won cultural background affects your grief process. Talking with family, friends, or clergy is one way to strengthen your awareness of possible cultural influences in your life. Friends and family may be able to help generate ideas to create your own rituals. Some have found solace in creating their own unconventional ceremonies, such as a funeral or ceremony with personal friends in a private setting.

Coping with Grief

Each one of us has an individual style of coping with painful experiences. The list below may help you generate ideas about how to manage your feelings of grief.

  • Talk to family or friends
  • Seek counseling
  • Read poetry or books
  • Engage in social activities
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy, good foods
  • Seek spiritual support
  • Take time to relax
  • Join a support group
  • Listen to music
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Let yourself feel free

You may want to experiment with these ideas or create a list of your own. Talking to friends who have dealt with loss in the past can help you identify new ways of coping. Only you know what works with your personality and lifestyle. One way to examine your own style of coping is to recall the ways you've dealt with painful times in the past. It's important to note that some ways of coping with grief are helpful, like talking to others or writing a journal. Others may be hurtful or destructive in the healing process, like abusing substances or isolating yourself. Healthy coping skills are important in resolving a loss and helping you move forward in the healing process.

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