If you’ve lost a loved one you’re probably wondering how long the grief will last and if it will ever be possible to fully move on with your life…
Losing a loved one is a very difficult experience, and your grieving process is different and unique to your personality, your relationship with the deceased, and to the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death.
Grief affects your life in many ways. You may find yourself in shock while attending to endless tasks, and unable to fully feel a sense of loss since you are so busy with tying up loose ends. Maybe you’re unable to function in your day-to-day activities, feeling as if you’re numb and in a daze, or crying uncontrollably.
Some people experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches or insomnia. Others are preoccupied with thoughts of the deceased, and experience mood swings including extreme sadness, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, yearning, guilt, or anger. Many people even say they “feel like they’re going crazy.”
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is simply a process that you must experience in your own unique way. However, without the right support you can get stuck and overwhelmed by your grieving process. Friends and family may not know how to give you the continued support you need in the months and, sometimes, years following your loss.
I have a great heartfelt interest and ability to support people through this difficult time in their lives, and I feel a calling for providing this type of work and support for my clients.
My own parents died nineteen days apart while I was getting my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. It was a pivotal moment in my life that shaped my entire experience in the psychology field and my interest and ability in helping others through similar loss. Several years after healing from my parents’ deaths, I felt deeply inspired to work with others who are experiencing this type of loss. I began writing a book about my own experience and immersed myself in further study of Grief Therapy. I also began volunteering for a hospice organization with individuals who had suffered the loss of a loved one.
When I began working with clients who were grieving, I watched them transform before my eyes as they moved through their grieving process and work through unresolved issues that they had with their loved one. It became apparent to me that each loss is incredibly unique and I found it to be a very rewarding experience helping my clients to heal.
Are you experiencing Complicated Grief?
Many people who are grieving have a complexity of emotions, coping strategies and conflicting feelings about the deceased. For instance, you may feel guilt about the loss of your loved one, or you may be using substances more than usual, or you may be unable to work.
Complicated Grief can present itself as an emotional numbness that persists and prevents you from feeling and experiencing your loss or it can present though substance abuse, breakdown with family relationships, decline in your work habits, intense sadness that won’t go away or an inability to move on with life after your loss.
Some ways to know if you are experiencing “complicated” grief include the following:
- Time has passed and you are unable to talk about the deceased without feeling the freshness of the grief as if it has just happened
- Minor events that remind you of your loved one trigger overwhelm
- You have experienced multiple losses and feel too overwhelmed to address what has happened
- Time has passed and you are unable to move the material possessions belonging to the deceased
- You have developed physical symptoms similar to those of the deceased prior to their death
- You are isolating socially, or have totally changed who you spend time with
- You are experiencing clinical depression
- You have self-destructive or suicidal impulses
- You feel extremely guilty regarding your loved one’s death
- You experience extreme sadness around the anniversary of your loved one’s death
- You have developed a phobia related to the manner in which the deceased died
- You strongly avoid talking about the deceased or visiting their grave site
When I’m working with a client who has experienced Complicate Grief, I find it very useful to employ a variety of techniques in the healing process. Mindfulness strategies are very useful to learn how to be present and comfortable in the here and now, as well as a process called Gestalt where you can address unfinished business in a safe and supportive way. It is often this unfinished business that keeps you stuck and unable to complete the grief cycle with your loved one.
Are you experiencing Anticipatory Grief?
Anticipatory grief is a unique experience that one may go through while anticipating the death of a loved one while they are suffering from a terminal illness. It is difficult to witness the loved one suffering, and one may feel a sense of relief once the suffering is over and the love one has passed.
The bereaved may hear things from friends or loved ones like, “He is in a better place now.” Or “At least she is not suffering any more.” To some this may bring comfort, to others it may bring confusion or resentment that the loved ones don’t understand the pain that the bereaved person is suffering.
Despite the length of illness, or circumstances leading up to the “expected” death of the loved one, the grief process following the death is no easier or different from any other death experience. In these instances, it is helpful to receive counseling prior to, and following the death of your loved one.
Although I work with individuals experiencing different grieving processes from many kinds of loss, I’ve seen a large number of people who have suffered from the unique process that occurs with parental loss. Grief is often very challenging and confusing in the parental relationship, because this relationship is so complex and possesses so many unresolved emotions.
Losing a parent can shake you to the core and changes your whole identity. Parents are typically the longest relationship you’ve had in your lifetime. When parents die it often results in feeling shock, disbelief, devastation or maybe even guilt and relief.
As you know, the parent-child relationship is complex. You may be feeling many emotions following this loss, and some of them may conflict with one another. Your relationship may have been strong and supportive, or your parent may have been absent or even sometimes abusive. You may have many conflicting memories, and it may be difficult to sort them out and know what to feel.
Many adults who have experienced the death of a parent find themselves feeling orphaned and unable to move forward in a life without the presence of their loved one. Some people start abusing substances, or feel their existing relationships unravelling, because it is so difficult to figure out how to be present in this new and different life. Many people report losing their sense of meaning and purpose with no end in sight.
The peace and freedom you seek is available to you. I know that all you want is to be able to move forward with your life without leaving your parents’ memory behind whether your parent died recently or it is ten years later and you still find yourself reaching for the phone to call home. If you’re ready to heal ALL of the issues that accompany the unique grief you are feeling, you have come to the right place.
How will Grief Therapy help me specifically?
Through our work together in Grief Therapy, I will address you as a whole person with unique characteristics to your own grieving process. I will help you move through any conflicting feelings you may have toward the person you lost, or toward yourself in relation to the loss of that person.
We will look at your coping strategies and help you to strengthen or regain healthy coping mechanisms. I will personally be there with you to help you walk through the process of healing and finding completion in your relationship with the person who has died, while addressing any issues that are affecting your daily life.
Whether your grief follows a typical pattern or is complicated in some way, it can be extremely helpful to receive professional support through this difficult time to help you move through the grieving process. It is important that you seek a professional who is familiar with issues related to grief, and prepared to help support you through the difficult emotions that are often a part of the healing process. It’s totally possible to feel a sense of completion with your grieving so you can remember your loved one with greater lightness and joy in your heart.