Grief Counseling

2011 205 (1)Are you feeling heartsick and perplexed by a loss or major change in your life?

If you have experienced a major life event or a major loss, you may feel lost at sea. You may feel as if you are caught up in a tidal wave, where you’ve lost your ground, been swept up, and landed in a place you don’t recognize. Many people describe grief as all-consuming or like being under water. All of us share the experience of loss and change. It is intrinsic to our world. Still, you may feel alone. Grief  is private, deep, and lonely.

Do you feel disoriented, overwhelmed?

You may even feel, some of the time or much of the time, as if you or your life is broken, even irreparable. If you have lost a loved one, you are experiencing one of the most radically life-changing and difficult events of your life. You may feel you have little energy for attending to anything else but grieving. You likely think about the change or loss much of the time, or you feel empty and numb. It’s time to get the help and support that you need. Our culture is not particularly good at supporting people through the grieving process. In our culture we tend to expect people to be cheerful and rise above their sadness too soon.

Major life changes are a normal part of our existence, and still they can radically change our lives and shake us up.

Every day we have small losses—a friend disappoints us or we break a cherished belonging. Loss is a natural part of life. But major loss is world changing and can shake up our sense of who we are and what is meaningful in our lives.

Even experiences we consider to be positive, like high school graduation, marriage, or the birth of a child can challenge us. We have to adapt to the stress of change. We have to re-look at ourselves and the roles we have in our lives. We may feel like different persons in many ways.

Of course some changes are more upsetting and life-changing than others. The loss of a job may be more stressful than a promotion, but a promotion is also rated high in stress-assessment surveys. Therapy can help you navigate both positive and negative changes and integrate them into your life.

You may feel as if you are in danger of burning out your friends and loved ones because your grief is so strong, and you cannot seem to escape it.

Grief is strong because connection is strong, even connections with people, events, or jobs we’ve had mixed feelings about. When they are gone, we grieve the change. People get attached to one another, and un-attaching is difficult. A seasoned therapist can help you navigate through these times of tremendous transition. Your world has changed and you cannot go back to the way things were before. This enormous upheaval requires time to adapt, and requires a lot of psychic energy. Although you may feel like you will never adapt and not be able to adjust, grief is a process—a natural one—in our walk through life. Grief is unique to each person and each individual will go through a different process.

Are you feeling ill and exhausted?

There are strong physical as well as emotional symptoms that accompany grief and change. You may have trouble sleeping. You may feel numb and empty at times, or experience long bouts of weeping where you feel you can’t stop. Often people feel distracted and have difficulty focusing at work or in other environments. Commonly people feel bewildered, anxious, irritable, and despairing. You might find yourself on a roller coaster of emotions, or feeling not much at all. Feeling numb suggests a state of overwhelm.

They say that time heals all wounds, and indeed, time can help when it comes to grief and loss and major change. However, some wounds never entirely heal. Catastrophic loss changes us and changes our idea of what life is all about. In time and with help and support, your loss will be woven in to a new story of your life in ways you cannot predict right now. You may even come to feel that your loss has made you a better person. Perhaps a more compassionate and stronger person.

Grief is a unique journey for each individual. You can find help. You can feel better again.

Grief is a very lonely experience. You can get help from a seasoned therapist who can act as your guide through this time of transition.

Have you lost your faith or your sense of what your life means due to major change or traumatic loss?

Sometimes major change, trauma, or loss can knock us off our feet. Our beliefs about life are thrown into question. What does all this mean and why did it happen to me? You may find yourself questioning your worldview and beliefs. You may feel estranged from your higher power and even question the meaning of your life. This is not an uncommon experience.

Do you wonder what can help you get through? People navigate grief differently, and although you may find yourself traveling through some stages in your grief such as withdrawal, depression, anger, or numbness, it is uniquely your journey.

Grief also tends to spiral. You may begin to feel better and then hear a familiar song that brings up painful feelings again. Over time, you will be able to integrate the change and loss into a reshaped life. It may be a different but just as meaningful and rich a life as it was before. But you may need some support and help to get there.

How long and how intensely you grieve will depend to some extent on the history of losses in your life, your own temperament, your support systems, and the severity of the loss. Uncomplicated grief follows naturally after a major loss of some kind. To feel sorrow and depression is normal. There is often a sense of guilt; the should-haves and what-ifs may haunt you for awhile. However, grief over a major loss, especially if it is sudden or dramatic or involves the death of a child, is never completely resolved. Still, you can turn this lead into gold. A broken heart can become an open heart. You grief may become a path to compassion and wisdom.

Sometimes grief becomes more complex. This may happen when people have had too many losses in a row, not enough support in their lives, or a history of other of trauma or abuse. Disabling symptoms may appear—physical problems or an inability to function. You may turn to addictive substances such as alcohol or drugs in an effort to ease your pain. Unresolved relationship issues may surface when there has not been a feeling of completeness. You may long to leave this world. It’s normal to have some thoughts about joining the deceased when someone you loved has died and you miss them terribly, yet continual suicidal thoughts are a real warning sign that you need help right away.

An experienced counselor can help support and guide you through this difficult time.

Compassion, wisdom, and mind/body knowledge help shed light and give you support in the area of grief, loss, and change. These are some of the tools I can offer to help you heal. I have many years as a practicing grief counselor. I’ve also taught about resilience and wisdom in seminars and conferences. On a personal note, as a young woman I was suddenly widowed with two young children. I know from the inside as well as professionally what it means to suffer through a major loss. I am a willing and able guide.