What is Grief?
Grief is response to the loss of someone (or something) in our life that has ceased to exist. Sometimes we grieve over the loss of a loved one. Other times we may grieve over the loss of a dream that is no longer possible. Bereavement is a similar term that refers to the state of grief over loss.
Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering that we feel when someone or something we love is taken away.
Sources of Grief
As humans, we grieve a variety of losses. We might grieve the loss of a job. Parents might grieve the loss of an adult child suffering from drug addiction or severe mental illness. A car accident survivor might grieve the loss of their sense of self following a brain injury. A soldier might grieve the loss of a comrade killed in action, or they may grieve the loss of their own mental well-being after suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Death of a child can take the form of a loss in infancy such as miscarriage or stillbirth.
The Grieving Process
It’s tempting to think of the process of grief as happening in predictable stages. It helps us feel that we are moving through a predictable course of feelings to eventual relief or recovery from the sense of loss. The truth is, grief is a complex process of adapting and coping with loss.
The vast majority of people who experience grief are resilient in the face of loss and do not require professional support. Despite even tragic loss, most people are able to cope and adapt over time to the loss, while regaining a sense of emotional wellness and positive relationships.
Everyone has their own way of grieving. There is no one “right way” to grieve.
People may experience a variety of emotions at different times during the grieving process. Some people cry and talk about the loss. Other people do not cry or may choose not to talk about the loss. Neither way of grieving is better than the other. Grieving can take many forms, including laughter and celebration (as in the case of an Irish wake, for example) as well as crying or sadness. Resilience to loss is the most typical outcome of grief for most people .
Only when grief persists for an extended time and takes over a person’s life does treatment become helpful or necessary. This is referred to as Complicated Grief or Prolonged Grief Disorder. In Complicated Grief, the feelings of loss become incapacitating and continue even though time passes.
When Should I Seek Professional Help?
Although not necessary, supportive psychotherapy can be helpful during the normal grieving process. It offers a space for the grieving person to express emotions or make sense of their loss.
Professional help is recommended if you are grieving and are struggling with any of the following:
- Persistent depression that interferes with normal activities
- Untreated alcohol or drug abuse
- Focusing on little else but your loved one’s death
- Experience intense pining or longing for the deceased person for several months after the death
- Intense thoughts of guilt or self-blame, believing that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
- Feeling as if life isn’t worth living, having lost your sense of purpose in life
- Wishing you had died along with your loved one
In the cases above, it is important to recognize that grief may have turned into something more serious, and professional help is recommended.
If you answered “yes” to these questions and feel you might benefit from therapy, contact us. We can give you the tools to cope.