Grief & Loss Counseling
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss does often cause the most intense grief. But any loss can cause grief, including:
- A relationship breakup
- Loss of health
- Losing a job
- Loss of financial stability
- A miscarriage
- Death of a pet
- Loss of a cherished dream
- A loved one’s serious illness
- Loss of a friendship
- Loss of safety after a trauma
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved.
Grief is a normal and necessary human emotion: our natural response to losing something or someone that is deeply meaningful to us. Yet we live in a world where those experiencing major losses are often denied the time and space necessary to mourn, to do the work of grief and to heal. Grief spans from the ordinary to the traumatic, from normal losses that are inherent in growing up to those more traumatic losses such as betrayals, abuse, serious illness or sudden violent death.
Grief can feel devastating. Emotional, physical and relational turmoil often accompany grief, and it is hard to know where to channel it. Sorrow must be given a voice or it may manifest itself as depression, anxiety, illness, addiction, or hopelessness.
Regardless of its nature, grief is an intensely personal experience. Our responses are intricately woven with our sense of who we are and how we see our place in the world, with our concepts of the purpose of life and the meaning of the loss. Thus how one comes to make meaning of their loss is crucial to their sense of self and their future.
The loss of a family member or loved one is without a doubt one of life's greatest difficulties. Unfortunately, death is also one of life's certainties; we are all likely to suffer the loss of a loved one at some point in our lifetime.
Experiencing the grieving process is key to understanding and accepting the loss of the individual in your life and being able to move forward with hope and optimism for the future. While everyone experiences grief and loss differently, common signs of grief include:
- Loss or impending loss of a loved one, family member, or pet
- Pervasive sense of sadness without relief
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and normal activities
- Trouble sleeping and/or poor appetite
- Feelings of guilt about actions taken or not taken with regards to the loved one
- Disbelief or denial of loss
- Anger at self or others
- Spiritual distress, including questioning of faith and anger at God
- Physical reactions, including tight feelings in the throat and chest, oversensitivity to noise, breathlessness, muscular weakness and lack of energy
- Major physical, emotional, and cognitive changes
Grief is an intensely complicated emotion, and can look and feel different for every individual. Furthermore, loss can be experienced in any number of ways, each having a different impact of the grief cycle to follow.
Individual adults losing a parent to a long-term illness or old age may have a different mourning experience than losing a child to illness. Unexpected deaths, death of a partner or friend, death of a child or parent, terminal illnesses and death by suicide will each bring up a unique combination of emotions for those left behind.
All losses are painful, and each of these scenarios brings with it a different set of questions and reactions.
There is no correct or ideal way to grieve the loss of a loved one, and there is no set timeline for the grief process. Grief is not always finite, either; the loss of a loved one is permanent, and the grief you feel for their absence may always linger, waxing and waning with the passage of time.
Hopefully, with time, grief will become manageable and one can begin to return to their daily activities without being held back by feelings of sadness and loss. However, if symptoms of grief remain intense for long periods of time and begin to interfere with the daily functioning in your life, it may be time to seek help.