I am a professional counselor providing guidance and support for those living with loss in Centennial and in Castle Rock.
Grief…Who would have thought I could hurt this bad?
Sometimes, even when you know you have experienced a loss, it can be difficult to fully recognize that you are feeling as a grief response. Grief typically registers in your brain the same way a physical assault or the flu does. For example, you might feel like you physically hurt all over. You may even feel that you’ve had a head-on with a semi-truck. Grief really does register the same as a physical assault or ailment. Sometimes, rest or even an aspirin (with physician approval) can relieve some of that pain. However, in the long run, if you are stuck, seeking grief counseling will be your best option for lasting relief.
Grief can also mimic depression, anxiety, anger and the sense that you are “checking out” from life. Grief can mute your emotions or your emotional responses to everything around you, including things you once enjoyed. Grief can cause you to avoid making decisions that need to be made. Through it all, you may feel like you are walking through fog or mud, unable to fully enjoy your life.
Loss creates a hole in what would otherwise be a healthy forward-looking heart or soul. But, in an attempt to feel better, like many people, you may wish to ignore that hole. You may tend to think you can just move on from the loss rather than having to face it. However, denial of your loss, in the long run, will likely make it difficult to whole-heartedly participate in your current life. Or, in an attempt to feel good and prove that you are over the grief, you may take risks you would not otherwise take, including engaging in addictive behaviors. When you avoid processing grief, your brain and heart are not fully operating together.
It may require mindful consideration or counseling to break through the fear of facing your loss and understand that what has been going on in your life is a normal response to your loss. You may need a comprehensive way to move toward acceptance. Appropriately grieving a loss will take as long as you need it to. But avoiding grief through denial only makes the grieving process longer.
The Loss of a Loved One Creates a Particular Type of Grief
The word “bereavement” specially refers to the experience of losing a loved one. This kind of loss can be particularly painful, especially if that loved one was part of your everyday life. It may feel impossible to imagine what your world will be like without this person. A death, especially if it is a sudden, unexpected death, such as a suicide or car accident, can be like the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.
Your life may take on a sense of unpredictability or unsafety, and living with your grief may seem more and more impossible. It can be hard to understand what you are feeling and to find the person that will help you tell your story. Someone that lets you know it is okay to release guilt and anger, feel depressed and give honor to a grieving process that is unique to you. It’s okay to need help. It can be deeply healing to find a person who lets you know that it is okay to be angry with God.
There are many other types of losses that can cause you to grieve. Below are some examples:
- Finding out you or a loved one has a terminal disease.
- Losing an important family member connection through mental illness.
- Making a difficult decision about an elderly or ailing loved one, including placing that person in assisted living.
- Divorce, which often begins with a sense that the relationship is crumbling but not yet dissolved.
- Abandonment by or alienation from your children, grandchildren or other family members.
- Abuse from a person you loved or depended upon.
- Having experienced sexual abuse as a child or as an adult.
- Dealing with a series of difficult blows that make you wonder where to turn next.
- Being single when your desire is to be married with children.
- The death of a pet.
- Having a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia who does not recognize you.
- Role changes, such as from married to divorced, or from independent person to caregiver.
Regardless of the specific loss you’ve experienced, you may find yourself surprised by the intensity of your pain. With these losses, there is often a deep soul grief that is hard to express to yourself, let alone another person. It can be immensely valuable to talk with someone who can understand and offer unconditional support.
How can grief counseling help?
As a grief counselor, I believe that you deserve room to validate your grief and begin to heal. In sessions, I can provide you:
- A sounding board when others want you to move on.
- Validation, understanding, empathy and acceptance.
- Support so you stay accountable to self-care, including diet, sleep and exercise.
- An understanding of what is “normal” for the grief process and the beginning of restoring some normalcy to your life.
- A way to honor your loss and, at the same time, honor your present life and the people in it.
- Time to tell your story and express what was meaningful about what you lost.
- Space to remember and honor all that was good about the past.
- A plan to help you not be overwhelmed by your emotions, by developing a system to pull yourself up and out of the grief of loss before you sink too far.
- By helping you find new ways of looking at the present and future.
- A new perspective on loss, including a look at the possible pros and cons of non-death related grief, and the opportunities for your future.
- A space for remembrances and hope.
You can get through your grief. No matter the source of the grief, I can help you find strategies that will work throughout the process of grieving. It can be life changing to go into the darkness of the loss and come out the other end, embracing not only the pain, but also the present life that is moving forward.
Sometimes a grief counseling group is helpful. Check to see if I have one in your area by following this link: Workshops and Groups.
A good source for bereavement-specific help is: National Funeral Directors Association.
You can also connect with me for some educational and discussion groups at: Becoming a Healthier You. I run a mindfulness group that can be helpful for living with grief. (the link is: https://www.meetup.com/Becoming-a-Healthier-You)