Colorado Clincal & Consulting Psychology / Jon Richard, PsyD
Loss comes into all of our lives, at different times and in many different ways.
Anyone reading these pages has experienced many kinds of loss in the course of life.
Grief – the experience of psychological, emotional, interpersonal, behavioral and spiritual pain that follows loss – is highly individual and varies from person to person and according to the circumstances of the loss, the support available to the grieving person, and the other challenges being experienced at the same time.
Your Unique Journey – There is no single or ‘correct’ way to grieve, nor are there particular ‘stages’ that apply to all grieving people. Each is experience is unique, both in the circumstances of the loss and in the psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral impact on the grieving person.
Loss and Resulting Grief May be Especially Painful and Difficult in Certain Circumstances:
- If the loss has been sudden and unexpected, as may happen with accidents or unanticipated medical calamities.
- If the loss has come about through violence, such as a death by homicide or suicide.
- If you are experiencing grief at a time in your life when you have already been highly stressed, such as having been a care-giver for the loved one who has died, or if you are facing health concerns of your own, or if you are facing high level demands from work or parenting at the same time that you are grieving.
- If the loss relates to a very challenging, complicated, or painful personal relationship, in which many emotional wounds have occurred.
- If there has been an unexpected loss of an anticipated relationship, as occurs in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Significant Loss and Grief Can Also Occur Even When There is No Death:
- Some people experience intense feelings of loss and grief when they move from one stage of life to another. The loss of familar roles, activities, and personal connections that come with major life changes can readily stimulate strong feelings of grief.
- For example, this may occur when when home-based parenting comes to end (the “empty nest syndrome”), or when a person transitions from career into retirement, or when aging, illness or injury bring changes in physical and recreational abilities.
How Can Psychotherapy Help with Healing and Recovery
- Even well-meaning family and friends may seem to be telling you how you are “supposed to” grieve, or when you are supposed to be “finished”. Therapy provides a professional relationship and a safe, confidential space in which to discern your healthiest path through your unique experience of grief. Your therapist will help you decide how to take care of yourself, how to utilize or increase the personal support in your life, how to identify new resources if needed, and how to cope with distress in a healthy way.
- Some people in your life may not know how to be supportive, and may distance themselves at the time when you could most use support. Others may provide support in the period immediately following a loss, but less so as time goes on. Therapy provides support, encouragement, and coping skills at the times that you need them the most, whether that it just following a loss, or perhaps weeks or months, or even years, later. Therapy can be brief or longer-term, according to your needs, or can be paused and resumed on an as-needed basis.
- Many friends and loved ones do not know how to respond hepfully to uncommon losses, such as those which occur through homicide, suicide, alcohol- or drug-related death or violent accident. These are sometimes experienced as ‘stigmatized loss’, because our culture often makes it hard to find support. Your psychologist is experienced in working with people who have suffered these types of losses, and will help you find your way with the right combination of empathy, sensitivity, and directness.
- Many losses can’t be undone. They require us to find a way to reconcile to the reality of a changed world and a changed life, and to find a way to re-engage with life in a new way. Therapy is a process that provides the support you need to figure out how to re-connect to what’s most important to you, and to move forward in a way that is healthy and hopeful.
- Sometimes, we may need to distinguish carefully between the pain of grief and the possibility of clinical depression occurring at the same time, which can make the process of recovery from grief more complicated. Your psychologist can help you recognize whether depression is part of the picture, and if so, help you resolve and overcome this part of the experience.
Ultimately, therapy during grief provides skilled support and compassionate problem-solving to help you cope with new realities, care for yourself effectively when you are experiencing emotional or physical symptoms of grief, and to move forward in a way that is best for you.
If you have questions related to grief or how therapy can help, you are encouraged to contact me for a cost-free telephone consultation.