There is no answer to when and how to grieve. And, there is no black and white answer to whether or not you need grief therapy. If you are struggling with a loss and think that you may need help coping or living a healthy productive life after your loss, you may want to consider counselling. We can help. Meanwhile, while there are no simple answers about how to grieve, this article provides some strategies to consider that you might find helpful. We hope you do.
#1 No one can tell you how or when to grieve
While it is generally accepted that there are stages of grief that we all move through, the way we express ourselves during each stage of grief can be very different.
- Denial: Denial can take many forms including staying ultra-busy with work or other activities so you don’t have to think about your loss, to pretending that you are fine and don’t need to grieve.
- Anger: As with denial, anger may not always manifest in the same way. Anger can look like fear and can cause people to isolate themselves from situations and people that may be helpful. It can also just look a lot like anger, including lashing out at people who are just trying to help.
- Bargaining: You know you’re in this stage of grief if you are going through constant scenarios of, “what if,” and “if only.” If you get stuck in this way if thinking it may be time to speak to a professional. Bargaining keeps you stuck in the past and can be very damaging to your life.
- Depression: When you are sad you may have trouble sleeping or may be sleeping too much, you may have a decreased appetite or eat too much in an attempt to numb your feelings. You may have a lot of regrets and cry a lot. There are a lot of ways this stage can manifest. If you find that these symptoms are keeping you from meeting your daily responsibilities of life for an extended period of time, or if sadness turns to thoughts of hopelessness and deep foreboding, you may need professional help working through your grief.
- Acceptance: You can accept the situation for what it is and still be sad or depressed or angry. That’s okay. Acceptance does not mean that you are happy about the situation or that you forget about the pain you’re going through. It means that you accept the reality of the situation and are ready to begin creating a plan for moving forward with life with your grief.
#2 Feel your feelings
It is likely that at some point during your grieving process someone will tell you that you are being too sensitive or that you should not feel the way you are feeling, or that you should feel the way they feel. Those people are wrong. Whatever you are feeling in your grief is the right thing for you to feel. There is one caveat to that. If your grief turns to thoughts of self harm, that is not okay. That is the time to call a professional right away.
#3 Loss comes in many forms
Everyone understands grieving the loss of a loved one. That is something that we’ve all experienced or at least understand intellectually. However, we grieve many kinds of losses. The loss of a pet can be devastating and cause a tremendous amount of grief. Whether or not your coworkers or family members understand or acknowledge that grief does not diminish your suffering. You can grieve the loss of a marriage, even a bad marriage. Whenever we experience a loss, the grieving process is how we cope and move on with life. No loss is too small to grieve.
#4 Numbing the pain is not a good solution
It can be tempted to use alcohol, food, or other substances to numb your feelings. There are many reasons why this is not a good idea. Ignoring your feelings doesn’t make them go away. Eventually they are going to need to be expressed. And, if you don’t acknowledge them in a healthy way, they are likely to show up later in life in ways that may be self-destructive or more difficult to deal with. Something else to consider is that if you are numbing your feelings, you are numbing all of your feelings. If you are drinking away your grief, you are also drinking away any chance you may have to feel joy or happiness. You can’t do one without the other. It doesn’t work that way.
#5 Get Help
There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. As a matter of fact, knowing when you need help and being brave enough to ask for it, is a sign of strength. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms we encourage you to reach out for professional help:
- You feel unable to cope with daily life and feel overwhelmed by any emotions
- The intensity of your grief does not subside over time
- Your depression or anxiety are keeping you from participating in life
- Your relationships are falling apart
If you are a caretaker for someone who is suffering with these symptoms, you should also seek out help.
Call Inner Source Psychotherapy and Consultation Services in Loveland. We’re here to help. We offer individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Beth Firestein is here to help you with grief and loss, healing from trauma, dealing with aging and caregiving issues, and any mental health issues you are struggling with.