If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with grief and loss, here are resources that can help.
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow.”
~ Leo Tolstoy
Have You Lost Something or Someone Very Dear to you?
Do you at times feel like you are in the midst of a dark and confusing tunnel with no light to guide your way?
Are you struggling with hopelessness, panic, rage, despair, or deep aching heartbreak that threaten to overwhelm you?
Or, do the feelings appear so vast and endless that you find yourself going numb and feeling strangely disconnected from the pain?
If you answered “yes” to any of these you are likely in the midst of the grieving process.
Help is Available
Speaking as someone who has personally experienced great grief and loss, I can say confidently that with time and support that the overwhelming and painful feelings can and will shift. Joy and lightness can return to your life without having to push away what is lost. Help is available now, all you have to do is reach out.
Grief counseling is a powerful form of support and can be very helpful both in assisting you through the natural process of grief as well as uncovering and healing the harmful blocks to a complex or ambiguous grieving process. Very early on in therapy you may begin to experience relief from some of the overwhelming feelings as you feel them deeply and create room for the new.
Everyone Experiences Great Loss
Though it can at times feel like something is very wrong, grief is actually a natural process and a big part of what it means to be human. Love and grief can even be seen as two sides of the same coin. In other words, if we did not love deeply we would not grieve deeply, and the amount of grief you may be feeling right now says a lot about the amount of love you have for what you have lost. Everything worth loving always hurts to lose. In the same way that love opens our hearts to a greater capacity than we thought possible, so too can grief, when we allow it.
You may wonder “How do I allow myself to grieve?” You first give yourself permission to grieve by recognizing the need for it. Grieving is as natural as laughing when you hear a good joke, or sleeping when you are tired, and it is the process by which we heal from loss and a broken heart.
However, just because grieving is natural and normal, it does not mean it is in any way easy. Losing someone you deeply care about, and then having to reorient your sense of self to a life without that person, can be one of the most painful and difficult experiences in life. Whether the loss is the death of someone, the ending of a relationship, or simply a life transition such as a job loss or relocation, there is grief and the grieving process, and thus a need for care and attention.
Though grief and loss are normal, sometimes the grieving process is blocked or derailed in some way. This is known as Complex Grief and it can occur for many reasons. For instance, being unsupported in your grieving, having a complicated relationship with the lost person such an abusive parent, an ambiguous loss such as a loved one sinking deeper into dementia, or simply unconscious beliefs that see grief as weak or useless.
When the grieving process becomes stuck, you may notice things like frequent and increasing attempts at numbing yourself from the pain and simply trying to “move on.” While this is an intelligent coping mechanism, it does not serve you in the long term. If the grieving process was derailed, part of you is still experiencing the loss like it were only yesterday, however long ago the loss may have occurred.
My Journey Through Grief and Loss
My own journey with grief began when, at age forty-eight, my mother went into end-stage kidney failure, a disease that turned into a nine-year battle and ended in her passing. I can remember how difficult and confusing it was to take care of someone who very recently was taking care of me, and how her severe dementia tore at the deepest places of my heart. It was not long into her illness until I started feeling angry and numb.
I can remember how difficult and confusing it was grieving the loss of my mother in stages, as her dementia worsened and the possibility of her healing seemed less and less likely. During the last year of my mother’s life I found a skilled therapist who helped me navigate this ambiguous loss and complex grieving process I was in, as well as holding me through the final loss of her death. The support I received was profoundly helpful, healing, and life changing. I was not only able to allow some of the most painful feelings to pass through, but was also able to receive some of the incredible gifts that the grieving process had to offer.
My own difficult and transformative experiences with my mother and other painful losses have taught me a great deal about grief and have inspired me to become a counselor and help others along their own grieving process towards greater healing and wholeness.
Common Questions and Concerns
If grieving is normal why do I feel so crazy?
Grieving and everything associated with it is completely sane and normal. What isn’t “normal” are the expectations and restrictions put on us by our culture, and sometimes family and friends. Some cultures allow for and expect the grieving process to unfold over the course of a year or even two. However, in our culture, the expectation is often to get back to work and business as usual as soon as possible. Without honoring the grieving process through the creation of space to grieve, it becomes difficult to allow the process to unfold and we start to feel like something is wrong with us.
How long does grieving take?
If supported and unobstructed, I have found that the acute process of grieving usually takes anywhere from six months to a year, with regular rounds of revisiting the grief afterwards, although not as intense or destabilizing. If you are outside of this particular set of expectations, remember that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are simply in the midst of a grieving process that may have become stuck and needs extra support.
I’m afraid of what feelings might come up in therapy and I’m ashamed to share them, even with a therapist.
It is perfectly normal to be experiencing fear around the overwhelming feelings associated with grief. It’s scary to face the reality of the loss you have experienced and what that means. Perhaps even the thought of the loss makes you angry. Please know that in counseling we will always go at your pace, never opening up to feelings faster than you can handle and safely navigate.
It’s also perfectly normal to feel shame around some of your thoughts and feelings in the grieving process. Perhaps there is a part of you that believes that one morning you will wake up and the person or thing you lost will be there again. It is natural to want to hold onto what we’ve lost, even after we’ve lost it. It is also amazing what a little sharing and opening up can do for shame.
Reaching Out For Support
Though some grieve more in private and some more with others, the grieving process is not meant to be done totally alone. Even if it feels hard, it is important to at times take the risk of reaching out in your grief and ask for support. This might simply mean asking a loved one to take the time to listen to what it’s like for you. Or it may mean joining a support group for your type of loss or finding the help of a skilled grief counselor who you connect with and trust. Whether you are looking for support in your grieving process or suspect that there is a blocked complex component to your grieving, I encourage you not to wait to reach out.
If you would like to schedule your initial consultation with me please click on the CONTACT tab to send an email or give me a call at 720-441-2998. Your initial appointment is 100% risk free, meaning that you have the opportunity to meet me and see if you feel that psychotherapy is right for you and that we are a good fit. If you choose not to continue you will not be billed for the initial appointment.
If you would like more resources in the area of grief and loss please check out the related articles at the top right of the page as well as the links and resources section. I also welcome any questions or comments.
I wish you great healing in your grieving process,
Dan Entmacher MA, LPC