Successfully Overcoming Grief and Loss
At some point in our lives, we all lose someone or something we love. However, this universality of experience doesn't diminish the pain, shock, guilt, anger, and sadness that often accompany a significant loss.
While many of the emotions that follow a loss may be surprising, overwhelming, and even frightening, they are all normal reactions that you need to come to accept in order to move through the grief process and move forward in life.
That having been said, everyone experiences grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, there are healthy ways to help you cope with grief so that you can not only move forward again but also strengthen and enrich your life.
Unique Experiences of Grief
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience.
While grief may be most commonly associated with the death of a loved one, grief is actually a normal response to any loss, including:
- Losing a significant friendship
- A relationship breakup, separation, or divorce
- Moving away from home
- Loss of health due to a serious illness or disability
- A miscarriage or abortion
- Job loss, retirement, or financial instability
- Having to let go of a long-cherished dream
- Loss of safety and trust due to trauma
How you experience grief will depend on numerous factors, not the least of which is the significance of the loss itself. Although more significant losses tend to be followed by more intense and prolonged grieving, this is not always the case. But in all cases, grieving takes time.
How much time? Unfortunately, the grief process doesn't follow a timetable. Some men and women may start to feel better in just a few weeks, for others it may take months, and for some the grief process may last years.
Regardless of how long it takes you to grieve, you must learn to be patient with yourself and to allow healing to occur gradually and at your own pace.
But Doesn't Grief Occur in Stages?
Many people are familiar with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' "five stages of grief":
While these stages can help people acknowledge their grief and recognize that what they're experiencing is natural, Kübler-Ross never meant for these stages to be applied as a rigid framework for the grieving process. As Kübler-Ross stated, "They [the stages] were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives."
So, contrary to popular belief, most people don't experience the "stages of grief" in a neat, sequential order. In fact, many individuals don't experience all of the stages of grief, and some don't experience any of them.
When grieving, you shouldn't worry about what you "should" be feeling, but instead spend your energies on working through the feelings you are experiencing so you can move forward.
Effectively Coping with Grief and Loss
Although everyone experiences loss and grieves in unique ways, the most important factor for anyone looking to cope with and overcome grief is the support of other people.
If you're not normally comfortable discussing your feelings with others, or find yourself lacking a support network, you should still make every effort possible to find support, share your experience, and not grieve alone:
- Talk with family members and friends — Even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient, there is no better time to ask for and accept the help of loved ones than when you're grieving.
- Take solace in your faith — If you adhere to a specific religious tradition or set of beliefs, taking part in the mourning rituals and spiritual practices that have meaning for you can be a source of tremendous relief. You can also talk to members of the clergy or other members of your religious community about the feelings and difficulties you're experiencing.
- Find a grief support group — Grieving can be a very lonely process, especially if you lack a strong support network or if friends and family members don't share your feelings of loss. Grief and bereavement support groups can be of tremendous benefit, as they allow you to connect with others who've shared similar feelings and experiences and try out different coping strategies to manage and resolve your grief.
- Seek the help of a professional grief counselor or therapist — If you've been struggling with grief for an extended period of time, or if your grief feels overwhelming and is hampering your ability to fulfill your daily tasks and responsibilities, professional grief counseling can help you work through the emotions that are preventing you from grieving in healthy manner and moving forward in life.
Just remember, whether you rely on your own support network, seek the help of a grief support group, or attend professional grief counseling, sharing your grief with others will not only help lighten the burden of your loss, it is the fastest route to healing from grief and moving forward into the future with confidence and optimism.
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For more information contact:
Haleh Rambod, M.A., MFT
2111 Geer Road, Suite 505-507
Turlock, CA 95382
4100 Moorpark Avenue, Suite 106
San Jose CA, 95117