Grieving is a lifelong process and every persons experience is uniquely different despite some commonalities. Losses bring deep suffering that lets you know life has changed. Whether it's the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a pregnancy loss, or divorce, mourning is an active process of finding acceptance to let go, while simultaneously holding on to the internalized connection. Losses can be anticipated with protracted illness, traumatic, hidden, and/or catastrophic. Bereavement counseling validates your singular experience, helps you remember and review your relationship with the beloved, and normalizes your feelings and grief reactions as they evolve. We focus on finding meaning while honoring the impact of the loss on your life. Review helps to integrate the relationship, memories, and experiences, while identifying effective coping strategies for self-renewal.
Barriers to mourning include judging yourself for your emotions which may include feelings of yearning, exhaustion, sadness, loneliness, emptiness, fear, relief, anger, or feeling adrift, lost, forlorn. Some people experience prolonged guilt with self recrimination, and regret for what was or wasn't done. If you are concerned that "letting go" feels disloyal or you are socially withdrawn and isolated it may be time to seek help.
Elisabeth Kữbler Ross describes non-linear stages and emotional responses to grief:
- Denial - shock, disbelief "this can't be true.
- Anger - directed at doctors, family members, 'this isn't fair" "why me/him?" blaming others.
- Bargaining - accepting the inevitable and negotiating for time, new treatments "If I can only make it to....".
- Depression - sadness with symptoms of fatigure, social withdrawal/isolation, sleep disturbances, hoplessness.
- Acceptance - the death is real, irretrievable and a universal experience. Religious and/or interpersonal considerations. Facing the unknown and making arrangements .
- Hope - Finding meaning in a new life. Solidify identity, "self" cohesiveness and the ability to be present for oneself and loved ones.
William Worden describes the major tasks and benefits of "healthy mourning";
- The loss/death is real and irretrievable; mourning begins with facing the full impact upon your identity, and your own mortality.
Expressing and Releasing Your Emotions
- Feeling safe to grieve, express your pain, and get the support, validation, love, understanding, and acceptance of others. There is no timeline.
- Anniversaries and holidays can rekindle intense sadness and present an opportunity for ceremonies and honoring memories.
Concluding the Relationships
- Conflicted relationships take longer to resolve. What was lost? Facing unresolved issues/conflicts, fantasies, wishes, fears, lost opportunities, and roles.
Reclaiming Your New Life to Find Meaning
- Letting go and moving forward to living fully, while simultaneously keeping the person's memory and love alive, internalized. Recognizing your strength and resiliency in coping.
- Finding new enriching relationships. Re evaluating and committing to your priorities, and value system.
You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.