Losing a loved one can be the most difficult time in your life. You may wonder how you’re going to get through it. It’s so hard and you can get so worn out from feeling so terrible. Maybe you’re afraid you’re wearing the people out around you? Do you hear from others that they’re impatient for you to move forward but you feel that you can’t? In the midst of grief you can feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You may feel like the person other people want you to return to is gone and you can’t get it back. It may seem like nothing will ever be the same and that your choice is to fake it or to withdraw from people. Do you try to go through the motions to be happier than you feel? If you try to talk about how you’re feeling do you find people making insensitive comments that shut you down and leave you thinking that nobody understands your loss and how it’s impacted you? Do you feel such a heaviness of sorrow that you’re afraid you’ll never feel anything else?
The fact is, these can all be normal reactions to grief. It can take a lot longer to work through grief than most people realize. It wasn’t that long ago when people used to wear black or in later years a black arm band for extended periods of time after a death. I wish I knew why this helpful tradition has died off. It was good to let people know when someone was in mourning and it made it visible that after a loss someone may not be themselves for a long time and though everyone else may have moved on, the person grieving has not. People around you may think it’s helpful for you to not talk or cry or focus on your loss but actually this is just what people need to do. The goal is to not stay stuck, to move through it—and this is part of the process. Grief doesn’t get better by ignoring it and trying to ‘get over it.’ You never get over the loss of someone you love deeply but you can learn to live with it and you can feel good again.
People sometimes have concerns about seeking out grief counseling such as:
“I’m afraid that focusing on the loss in grief counseling will make me feel worse.”
This can be true at first but it’s important to remember that the way through grief is through it, not around it. It can sometimes feel better to distract yourself from the pain of the loss but the problem here is that this isn’t allowing you to heal but to just run away. The problem with grief that what doesn’t get worked through will come around again. Also by avoiding the pain you’re also possibly avoiding any reminders of your loved one. The goal of grief counseling is to help you work through the loss so that you come to enjoy your stories and memories of your loved one. To remember them and their importance in your life which never goes away but rather changes after they die. To forget the pain is to try to forget them and that is a shame.
“I should be strong enough to get through this on my own.”
This statement always gets to me. First of all, reaching out to someone else doesn’t mean you’re not strong. Would you feel you weren’t strong if you were trying to take care of yourself and you consulted a personal trainer or followed a nutrition plan? Or would you see yourself seeking out an expert to help you achieve your goal of increased health? Seeking out grief counseling is the same idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to seek counsel from someone who knows strategies for struggling with an issue. And people can express strong emotion and still be strong. Sometimes allowing yourself to be emotional or reach out to someone else is a sign of strength.
“How will a therapist be better at helping me than anyone else in my life will?”
Often when people are grieving they don’t want to burden someone or they worry about upsetting loved ones with their emotions. You don’t have to worry about that with grief counseling. It is the very place for you to express what you’re feeling without needing to censor yourself. I’ve seen a wide range of emotions throughout the years and I can handle your pain. Plus I’ve studied grief extensively; I have a good sense of what the various steps are for working through grief and what people need in order to be able to do so. Someone more intimately involved in your life may not have this kind of objectivity. It may be harder for them to tolerate your pain and they might, instead, do the not-helpful (though well-intentioned) thing of trying to get you to stop feeling bad.
I’ve felt a strong desire to help grieving people after losing my beloved mother in 2002 after a miserable 5-year battle with cancer. Being a therapist I read every book on grief I could find and made grief counseling the subject of my continued education efforts: a highpoint of which being a multiple-day workshop with renowned grief expert Therese Rando. All grief is different and I may not have personally experienced the same kind of loss as you but I am dedicated to help you through yours with patience and compassion.
There’s no need to continue suffering alone. Call me today for a free 20 minute phone consultation. You may also email me with any questions or if you would like to set up an appointment.