Most commonly, we associate grief with death. This is understandable, of course. It is a topic worthy of far more attention and patience. However, it can be counterproductive to limit our perception of grief and mourning. “Loss” is in the eye of the beholder and thus, how we deal with loss is very much an expression of individual perspective and personality.
What Can We Lose?
Again, loss is very subjective. Each of us grieves whatever we miss deeply. Of course, the most obvious example is the death of a loved one. However, another common loss revolves around divorce or separation.
Some other possible reasons for grief involve:
• A career you cherished
• Good health
• Your community role
• Family, friends, or connections
• Financial status
• More “abstract” losses like youth, innocence, dreams, etc.
No one should be in the position to tell anyone else what is worthy of their grief. That said, it is important to recognize when you or someone we know has experienced a challenging loss.
Common Symptoms of Grief
• Feeling isolated. It can be difficult to witness others happy or enjoying the moment when we are in the throes of mourning.
• A desire to be alone. This feeds off of the sense of isolation. No one gets you, so it may initially feel safer to not deal with others.
• Diminished social skills. Even when you do opt to meet with others, you appear inept and awkward.
• “Going crazy.” When you lose control of your feelings and your thoughts, or you lose your perspective on reality.
Other general signs of grief and loss:
• Anxiety, loss of focus, poor concentration
• Quick to anger
• Overwhelming guilt, remorse, and second-guessing
• A sense of numbness or lethargy
• Fatigue and exhaustion
In many or most instances of grief, the person enduring the loss can take powerful self-care steps to help ease the pain. The following steps, on their own, can sometimes be enough to work toward healing.
Validate Your Emotions
Be sure to name and validate what you feel despite what well-meaning people tell you. Own your emotions and do the work to address them. Be sure to set your own timetable.
Specific, Daily Self-Care During Periods of Grief
• Healthy eating habits
• Regular sleep patterns
• Daily activity and exercise
• Stress management
• Positive self-talk
This daily regimen will help empower you with manageable goals and soothing routines to keep life grounded and healthy.
Practice Gratitude and Self-compassion
Take inventory of all that is going well in your life. This is not meant as a futile attempt to cancel out grief. Rather, it will provide a much-needed balance between acceptance of your loss and putting it in a larger perspective. Being able to find meaning and purpose can help you move forward.
Seek Out Good Listeners
As Shakespeare said, “Give sorrow words.” Find trusted listeners to hear your story with compassionate ears.
When Grief Becomes Complicated (or Criticized)
Regardless of the source, grief can become complicated. Then, pain and sorrow do not subside. You may find it virtually impossible to return to everyday life. When the loss being mourned is not deemed “normal” by society, grief can be both complicated and criticized. Not only does it feel impossible to move on, but you are also viewed with suspicion for grieving something other than death.
No one should endure either situation alone.
Enlisting the help of a trained counselor can be a major step toward resolution and recovery. Regular therapy sessions can guide you through your thoughts and emotions to better understand what you are feeling. From a more grounded place, you will be better suited to create solutions and new behavior patterns.
Loss is a major blow for anyone. Do not hesitate to seek the help you need in order to recover and thrive.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address the loss and grief that may be negatively impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT