Grief, Loss and Counseling
By: Costa Provis, LCPC, CPC
Grief is all about feeling the pain of loss. When we lose someone or something that we care about it is really difficult. The process of grieving a loss is a sad and difficult journey which we all will likely face, or have probably already had some experience with.
It’s one of the most human things us humans have to go through, and yet everyone grieves in their own way. Grief is a journey with no smooth course, no order or sequence, no step by step process that we are expected to follow. Sure, there are the 5 stages of grief that we may have come across in a Psych 101 class at some point in time.
But anyone who has gone through it will probably agree that grief isn’t done in a straight line (moving from denial to anger, bargaining, then depression, and finally acceptance) but instead a choppy road full of good days and bad. For every step forward we might have several steps backwards, and that is completely normal. When we (or someone we care about) experience a significant loss, there is not a correct or incorrect way to handle it, however there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to cope with loss.
- First things first, please don’t isolate during this time. I know grief doesn’t exactly inspire us to socialize, but it is so important to share this experience with your support system. Lean on friends and family, cry with them, sit with them, just be with them. Talk about whatever you are feeling whether that is sadness, guilt, shock, or anything else you may be experiencing. If you don’t have access to a support system for any reason, consider reaching out to a therapist to help you cope with your grief.
- Remember that tomorrow will be better than today, and each day that follows will be slightly easier to manage. One day at a time, you will get through this painful period, and by keeping this perspective you are less likely to compound your grief by making unhealthy choices.
- Do helpful or generous things for other people as a way to take care of yourself. By acting with kindness and generosity we create joy around us and by giving or doing for others we lift our own spirits. This could include spending quality time with a beloved pet as well as volunteering to help people dealing with their own struggles.
- Take care of your physical health. The first three items on this list are really about taking care of your emotional health, and this fourth point is about keeping your physical health in mind too. Quite often we engage in unhealthy behaviors when we are in grief. We may use drugs and/or alcohol to numb the pain, or we may over/under eat, or we may see significant changes in our sleep patterns. The idea here is not to judge yourself, but rather to be mindful of making as many healthy choices as possible. Try to eat, drink water, get up and walk around as much as possible.
- Finally, plan ahead for future grief triggers such as birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries. These days will be extremely difficult as they serve as reminders about our loss. It’s absolutely normal to feel like crap on these days, especially over the first few years after experiencing loss. Whenever possible try to spend these days surrounded by your support system, doing things to honor the person or thing that you have lost. Don’t shy away from the discomfort of your grief, but rather commiserate with your loved ones and do something that helps you cope with your pain.
I realize that grief is a heavy and painful experience, and as normal and universal as it is, it is also a personal and unique journey for each individual. The most common denominator is that grief is despair and it is pain. It is sad and sorrowful.
This article isn’t about avoiding your grief or minimizing the pain you are dealing with, but instead this is a possible aide to help you try to navigate this tough time. Please remember that during grief there is not a right way to act or to think.
It isn’t a step by step process, and setbacks are a major part of the journey. By trying to keep these 5 points in mind, I hope your journey might be a little more manageable. Again, if you are struggling with a recent loss and in need of a little support during this difficult time, please consider reaching out to a trusted therapist if necessary.
Whether with a trained professional or with your friends and family, now is the time to surround yourself with trusted and supportive people. You will get through this! Tomorrow will be better than today.