Grief and Loss

Grief is the body’s natural way of healing from loss. It is experienced as a change in the balance of our everyday emotions and our way of functioning. At first, we may have a sense of being in shock or being numb. What follows is a range of feelings that often include sadness, anger, betrayal and depression. Grief is often experienced physically as well, and can include heartache, other muscle aches and pains, loss of appetite, sleep disruption and a loss of feelings of pleasure. Sometimes, we continue to go through the motions of everyday life, paying the bills and fixing the meals, but it all feels surreal or meaningless.

Nobody died. Is it still normal to grieve?

Our culture gives us permission to grieve when we experience the death of a loved one, and even when we go through a divorce or a serious breakup. But any disappointment can trigger the grief process, for example, a job rejection, a physical illness or a disability. Even positive events like a child leaving home or the end of a successful project can precipitate a feeling that life has lost some of its meaning.

How long should the grief process last?

Experts used to try to specify how long grieving should last. Now we know it’s a very individual experience. However, if you feel trapped in a well of sadness, guilt, anger, anxiety or hopelessness, then it’s probably time to talk with a professional.

How can therapy help the grieving process?

It’s difficult to go through the grief process alone. Family and friends can provide profound comfort, but often we feel we don’t want to burden them or “burn them out.” My clients sometimes tell me they feel the need to be strong for those around them. Occasionally, it can feel as if no one can really understand their experience.

Often, a significant loss leads to a very deep questioning of oneself or one’s faith. We sometimes ask: why did this happen to me or to my loved one? Did I do everything I could have done? Sometimes there are important relationship issues left unresolved and words left unsaid. A therapeutic process can help to sort out complicated feelings and resolve unanswered questions. Therapy can provide a safe, private place to grieve, to heal and gradually… to move on.

Content and webdesign © 2009 Karen Robson, MFT