Grief and Loss
What is grief?
Grief is a normal reaction to a loss. The death of a loved one is the most common way we think of loss, but many other significant changes in one's life can involve loss and therefore grief. Experiencing a loss has a unique impact on an individual, ranging anywhere from emotional challenges to difficulties with belief systems, values, and identity. Grieving who or what has been lost can look different person to person based on your personality, coping mechanisms, support systems, and other factors. There is no clue-cut manner in which a person experiences grief. Instead, it is a nuanced process that does not follow "rules" or a specific timeline.
While each of us feels loss differently, there are general indicators of grief that can be expected throughout a grieving process. These grief indicators stand as a guide to better understand typical responses to grief and acknowledge that grief and the resulting emotions and reactions are normal. Since grief is personal and unique to you, the indicators may or may not resonate with you.
- Disbelief/Denial: Numbness, shock, denial of the loss. "This can't be happening."
- Yearning/Bargaining: Wishing to bring back who or what has been lost. "Make this not happen and I will..."
- Anger: Rage, frustration, aggression. "Who is to blame? Why did this happen."
- Guilt: Feelings of guilt. "I feel bad moving on and making new memories."
- Depressive mood: Preoccupation with the loss, sadness, despair. "I can't bear this; I'm too sad to do anything."
- Acceptance/Recovery: Renewed sense of relationship to the loss, renewed connections, new goals, routine. "I acknowledge this has happened and I cannot change it."
- Hope: Feeling hopeful, excited, future oriented. A balance of holding the sense of loss with anticipation of the future.
What can help?
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve when you have endured a loss, but there are both healthy and unhealthy ways in which people cope. Practicing healthier coping mechanisms can offer assistance, connection, healing, and relief in your grief journey. Below are some coping mechanisms that can productively address grief:
- Express your friend. For some talking to a friend, family member, or counselor is key. For others expressing grief might look different for example, crying, yelling, creating, running, cooking, etc.
- Lean on your support system
- Practice self-compassion. Allow yourself time to grieve and be patient.
- Eat, sleep, and eat a balanced diet.
- Allow time for everyday activities and set a routine.
- Rest when you need, take breaks.
- If you are grieving a death, create a way to remember that person and honor and celebrate their life. For example, plant a tree, write a letter, sing and dance, make a donation, etc.
- Do something joyful. Find ways to laugh, smile. Acknowledge that this might be difficult at first.
How can counseling help?
Wherever you find yourself in the grieving process, having a space to talk about and acknowledge a loss, such that would occur in counseling, can provide a sense of support, validation, relief, and healing. Grief is a process and should be treated with self-compassion. If you are grieving a loss and feel "stuck" in the grief or overwhelmed with the grief the Counseling Center can help you. Call or email to schedule an appointment.