Healing in Grief
Updated: Aug 8
Grief is one of those words people don’t want to have a connection to. Relating to grief, means we know what it feels like to have felt loss, pain, and many other feelings commonly associated with it. Even if grief is something we hate to relate to, it is an integral part of the human experience. Many in this world have felt some semblance of it, however several people may not truly understand what grief is, how it affects us, and how we can begin healing.
What is Grief?
The word grief has been defined countless times by many different people, groups, and organizations. Grief may be defined as “the constellation of feelings, behaviors, cognitions and alterations in functioning attendant upon loss of any kind” (Zisook & Kendler, 2007, p. 781).
Other definitions place emphasis on the aspect of “change” associated with grief- the idea that some aspect of one’s “normal” ended or changed significantly. Many definitions will commonly relate grief to the death of a loved one; however, it is much more common to see definitions, today, that associate grief to “a loss of any kind.” While none of these are necessarily wrong or inaccurate, it is incredibly important for people to understand that feelings of grief are not limited to the experience of losing a loved one.
Non-Bereavement Grief Experiences
Other grief-related experiences that do not involve death include:
• Chronic Illnesses
• Job Loss or Career Change
• Bankruptcy and Foreclosure
• Multicultural Discrimination
• Loss of safety after trauma
These are just a few examples of how one may experience grief, unrelated to the loss of a loved one. In these examples, we can make the connection of how any of these areas could alter one’s feelings, behaviors, and thoughts- they can affect one’s identity, aspirations, physical and emotional health, and so much more. These instances show us how people may face various levels of loss and experience many forms of change- all relating to grief.
Beginning to Heal
Most of us have heard about the “stages of grief” throughout our lifetime. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross created the commonly referenced 5-stage model of grief in 1969. Her grief classification and categorization has helped countless people understand their grief and attempt their healing process. Although in her original creation, Elisabeth intended for her model to be linear, meaning you pass through one stage at a time and then move on to the next, many researchers now suggest that people are able to fluctuate between stages or return to ones they thought they already “made it through.” These five stages include:
Denial: commonly understood as the stage where people do not want to accept whatever loss they have experienced.
Anger: this feeling is sometimes directed at a particular person or thing that contributed to the loss or change that someone is experiencing.
Bargaining: this part in Elisabeth’s stage is exactly what it sounds like: attempting to make a deal. One may pray, beg, or plead that their grief-related experienced is “fixed,” the loss is “returned,” or that their situation just “goes away.”
Depression: this stage is when people may experience depressive-related symptoms due to their grief experience. This is often the point when one may seek help from a professional.
Acceptance: this one can be tough for people to understand, especially if they have, or are currently experiencing a grief-related loss. Acceptance looks different to every person- for some it may be the point when they have found their “new normal,” but have not necessarily “moved on.” One may find a new way of adjusting into the world, while another may identify as having moved on and feels “complete” with the process.
Why Seek Help?
There are many different reasons that someone may seek professional help with a grief-related issue. Some clients I have personally seen have come to me for reasons of:
• Attempting to find that “new normal”
• Identifying and trying therapeutic tools to help with the loss
• A desire to work on depressive symptoms
• Experiencing frequent panic attacks relating to grief
• Having a space to talk freely about the loss, while attempting to make small steps forward
• Coping with life changes since loss
These are just a few of the reasons I have personally worked with people relating to grief. If you feel like you have a connection to any of those mentioned or believe you could benefit by talking to a professional, please do not hesitate to set up an appointment.