We all experience grief and loss during our lifetime, and sometimes grief counseling is appropriate when we are having a hard time handling the loss on our own. We experience grief with different intensities depending on what we are grieving or what we lost. Grief comes up at the end of a romantic relationship even if it was one that we didn't want to be in or one that was particularly unhealthy. We still had an attachment to that person so we are going to feel the loss.
Obviously breakups are not the only time we feel grief. We grieve for the death of a loved one. Sometimes the grief is too much to handle at the time of death and we turn away from our emotions in order to deal with the details and planning of the funeral. You feel as if you must shut off your emotions to survive and not get taken over by all the sad feelings. If your grief is not revisited and it is suppressed, it could cause pain in other areas of your life.
A child who loses a family member finds it difficult to process the grief and loss in a healthy way if there isn't an adult present to guide them through the emotions.
If you are still holding on to grief seeing a therapist will help you let go of it in a controlled and safe environment. Click here if you're wondering how to be there for your partner during their grief.
Stages of Grief and Loss
The stages of grief have evolved and changed over the years since their introduction. It was Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who first came up with the five stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to know that we do not move through the stages of grief in a nice and neat linear fashion, spending a fixed amount of time on each feeling. We move through the stages in a very personal way and it is dependent on a lot of factors. The stages are meant to show us what the terrain of grief may look like so we are better prepared to cope with the feelings of loss. Below are the five stages.
A common first stage that is explored in grief counseling is the denial stage. Denial is meant to act as a survival mechanism. Sometimes the feelings are so strong that we need something to avoid the overwhelming emotions. It's okay to be in denial for a period of time. Often the denial is coupled with the feeling of shock and numbness. Meaninglessness can sink in at this stage as well. As you start to accept the reality of the loss you will begin to ask yourself questions. This means that you are starting to let some of the feelings come up so that you can process them more fully. This means that you are becoming stronger and denial is starting to fade.
Anger is a very important part of the healing process. It is vital that you let it in and feel it as much as you can. There is no need to suppress anger, and doing so may interfere with your healing process. Grief counseling gives you the opportunity to experience the grief in a safe and controlled place. At times the anger can feel endless. However, the more you honestly feel it, the more it starts to go away. Under the anger is a lot of pain. You may feel abandoned and betrayed. You may feel "jipped" or taken advantage of. These are all very normal feelings during the anger stage. You may become angry with yourself, with the person who left you, or with someone else that you are close to.
The bargaining stage is filled with "what if" and "if only." We try to figure out what could have happened if we had done something different. We wish badly that we could turn back time and make a different decision, or really appreciate the relationship while it lasted. Guilt is often a very strong feeling that is felt during this stage. We usually find fault in ourselves, and blame ourselves for things we can never do over again. Grief counseling is meant to move you through the bargaining stage. Many times we are stuck in the past trying to find a way out of the pain and hurt.
Once we start focusing on the present, depression is what typically sinks in. It is very normal to feel an intense amount of sadness and depression. You have just lost someone you had a special relationship with. It is very normal to feel depressed when you focus on that void and emptiness that is currently in your life. Depression can become even greater when you really start to realize that the person will never come back. The finality of it all is very hard to accept and let in. Losing someone makes you feel very sad, so it is typical to spend time during grief counseling feeling the depression. During this stage it is normal to think that you'll never feel happy or whole again.
A goal of grief counseling is to experience acceptance around the loss. Acceptance is not being "fine" and "okay." Acceptance is not feeling joyful and happy after the person you loved and were attached to is gone forever. Acceptance is acknowledging that there is a piece missing in your life and then integrating that fact into your life. It is not about moving on and being fine with the loss. It is about making new relationships with other people and also with yourself. You should never expect to feel happy about a loved one dying. If your romantic relationship has come to an end, you may be able to get to a place where you are happier without it in your life. Sometimes you may not get there, but you'll end up integrating the fact that they are not going to be that special person that they used to be into your life. During this stage you may start to reach out to others and become more involved in your life. Friendships and relationships will start to change and evolve. Life will take on a deeper meaning because you have given the grief time to heal.