therapy for grief & loss
You can experience loss in many different ways: through the death of a loved one, through divorce, in the end of a significant relationship, through stillbirth or miscarriage, even through a dramatic change in your role (such as retirement) or abilities (such as the loss of a limb). The meaning of the loss in your life is colored by whether it was a surprise, or something expected. It is also influenced by whether the loss was something you caused or believed you caused (such as a divorce), or was completely out of your control (such as the suicide of a loved one). No matter how it came about, each important loss deserves to be grieved, and it can be very helpful for you to have support and guidance in a process that can feel so overwhelming. I typically offer to bring some structure to grieving by helping you to identify three distinct parts of the lost relationship: what you liked, what you didn't like, and what might have been. That last part is often overlooked, and yet can be what causes the most pain. We review each aspect (typically over 2-3 sessions), and then set aside one session specifically for you to say "goodbye" to all of the parts of the relationship. This approach may sound a little hokey to some, but again and again I have seen people shift to a place of greater closure and greater emotional freedom through it. The aim is not to "hurry up and finishing grieving already" - instead, it is to resolve enough and grieve enough to feel you can move on, thinking of that relationship when you choose, without grief intruding upon or overshadowing your daily life.
Grief is probably one of the most painful and universal of human experiences. Whether suffering from the death of a loved one, illness of a family member, loss of a pet, divorce, separation, break-up, your own recent health changes or a new diagnosis, loss can take many shapes and forms. Understanding more about the process of grief, and allowing yourself space to experience its many faces, can help you through the mourning process and create a smoother path to healing and resolution. Grief counseling can provide you with guidance, validation, and direction during a process that can otherwise feel overwhelming. Whether for a recent loss or one you endured decades ago, therapy for grief can be a valuable source of strength and support during a difficult journey.
Grief is a normal human reaction to death and loss. You might be feeling shock, anger, guilt, deep sadness, confusion, and fear. There are no clear "steps" to go through in a particular order and no set timeline of how long you should or shouldn't grieve. For many people grief can take a year or longer, but the timeline is different for each person. Generally the first few months are the most intense and the pain subsides with time. It is very important to be compassionate with yourself and to find support from those around you. Find a way to honor the person who died. Remember that just because that person has died does not mean you have to forget or not think about him or her. An important goal is to find a new way to have that person in your life and heart. The relationship doesn't end, it changes. You don't "get over it," you move forward "with it." How can you keep that person in your life in a way that allows you to go on with your life and have other meaningful relationships? Grief is also a reaction to different kinds of loss, not just death. The end of an important relationship, the loss of a long-term job, retirement, are all situations that can trigger emotions similar to grief.
Grief is the time that we drop to our knees and give up struggling with our strong desire to be able to control our world and prevent horrible things from happening to us. If denial is an unwillingness to recognize how bad it feels, and anger is a refusal to accept how bad it feels, real grief is the relinquishment of both our avoidance and our protest into a collapse that actually allows us to complete the feeling of loss and sadness, clean ourselves up, and move forward with an open heart again. After having lost so much, every joy carries the shadow of what can ultimately come of the most wonderful things. Do we avoid the joy, then? A child's book by Eileen Spinelli says, "When you are lonely, I will show up at your doorstep with my heart in a basket." Sharing grief with other people who know how to grieve is part of what people are for.
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