On Healing through Grief and Loss

Any kind of loss is difficult and takes time and energy to move through. Grief weighs heavy, but you aren’t alone.

What’s the difference between grief and mourning?

Grief is what you think and feel on the inside, and mourning is when you express that outside of yourself. Mourning is showing and doing. When you cry, talk to someone else about the death, write in a journal, put together a photo display, or write a thank you note for a casserole you received, you are mourning. If we don’t allow ourselves to mourn our grief can get stuck. It needs a way out, it needs help moving through.

We all naturally grieve when someone we love dies, but it is also essential to mourn. Mourning is how you move toward hope and healing – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

Mthys you may or may not know:

  • We “get over it” Deep losses don’t just go away. Words like “I understand what you’re going through” are not helpful because each loss is unique.
  • Time heals all wounds- time may make it easier to return to routine activities, however, it does not take away the feelings of loss, etc. It is what we do with the time that heals mourning is an active and working process. After a loss, a person receives the most attention and support within the first couple of weeks to a month and afterwards, this often decreases, thus, it is essential to continue with support after that time.
  • Best to move on. We do not “move on” after a loss, we move “through” and outbursts may occur and are normal
  • What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger. There are losses that leave a permanent wound with us. Some losses can make someone more resilient, however, some losses can leave people broken emotionally, physically, and mentally by the loss of their loved one.

What are the types of grief?

Anticipatory grief:
Reacting with grief in anticipation for a loss. Terminal illness is a common one that causes anticipatory grief.

Disenfranchised grief
Society/culture or support groups make an individual feel that their loss is insignificant. This can occur when the death is stigmatized (suicide/overdose/HIV/AIDS/drunk driving), a relationship is seen as insignificant (pet, exes), or the loss is not a death (dementia, traumatic brain injury, etc).

Complicated Grief:
There are times when grief does not progress as expected; the intensity and duration of grief is prolonged and dramatically interferes with a person’s ability to function. Symptoms of depression and anxiety may be prevalent and prolonged. Thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and reactions may seem to persist over long periods of time with little change or improvement. If you are resonating with this, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist. Typically, complicated grief does not resolve on it’s own.

Grief is a normal natural reaction to the loss of someone or something. Each of us is going to handle our grief in our own way, just like we handle any other emotion. Each person’s grief is unique to them ~

Our Body & Grief

  • Body: inflammation, lower immunity, sleep disorders, etc.
  • Mind: worry, obsessions, self-defeating or suicidal thoughts
  • Emotions: Anger, sadness, self-loathing, bitterness, anxiety
  • Spirit: Despair, guilt, cynicism, angst, alienation

Healing through Grief

  • Physical: brain health, medication, exercise, nutrition, sleep
  • Cognitive: Talk therapy, reframing, coaching, mindfulness, CBT
  • Emotional: Catharsis, meditation, positive experiences, mindfulness
  • Spiritual: Meaning, perspective, forgiveness, ritual, prayer, nature interaction

Allowing ourselves to be mindful of the present moment and using the “brain rebooting” techniques of breathing exercises create emotional self-awareness and regulation as well as the ability to focus on the present moment.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique for Mindfulness and Anxiety Reduction:

  1. Empty the lungs of air
  2. Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
  3. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
  4. Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for
    8 seconds
  5. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times, or as long as you deem necessary

Most people move through their grief, adjust to the loss, and resume a changed but full life. Typically, grief reactions start to fade within about six months. Some people, however, do not feel better as time passes, and they may feel worse or have difficulty functioning. The holidays and first anniversary of an individual’s passing can often be a difficult time. Remember to take care of yourself and reach out for help if needed- YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

Kala Gattuso, APSW
Individual Psychotherapist

Some Grief Resources:
*Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC)
*Grief.com-Help For Greif Because LOVE Never Dies
*Grief Share
*Open to Hope

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