Grief, Loss, & Transitions
What I know about grief, loss, and life transitions comes from two sources: books, and life experience. The former has been interesting to read about and the latter has been a challenge to live.
Grief and loss are a normal part of life and the transitions we must make from going through them can be difficult and challenging. I’ve never known anyone who wants to experience grief and loss over and over again. I hope that you will find this to be straight talk that is useful for you.
I’ll start with a myth: Grief has stages. NO!!! Recovery from an experience that causes grief and loss is a process without check boxes. It is as individual as you are. There are no rules or proper ways in which to behave. There isn’t a right or a wrong way of grieving. Just like all other feelings are okay, all grief is okay. The only thing consistent about grief is that it is messy, it is ugly, and I am sorry that you have to be here on this site. However, I’m glad that you are here if you can find some help.
Having said the above, I will also say that the different types of grief we might face are as varied as any individual. While you might have grieved for your father with tears and talking, your sibling may have shut down and struggled to articulate the pain that couldn’t be expressed so easily. You might have been deeply saddened by a childhood or an adult move to a new home. When two friends leave home and begin their university careers one of them thrives in the new environment and the other struggles with the grief and pain for the loss of childhood and adolescence. Suddenly the university is all too real and gone are the carefree days of parental guidance.
You may come to a realization that what you have worked at for twenty years is no longer serving you at all. The frustration, sadness and uncertainty are all weighing heavily on you. You acknowledge that you can head in a new direction, however, how do you deal with the grief and loss around saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new? Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
You may come to a realization that your faith no longer serves your needs as it once did. You are in the dark night of the soul. You experience grief and great sadness because of this and you know it will be hard on those you love. You slip into a huge depression. You wonder if this is normal.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, it is ALL normal!
Any loss is hard. Even a loss that we know is coming, is hard. Even a loss that has a potentially positive outcome, is hard. Transitions mean that we have to face ourselves in new ways. Sometimes change means learning to see the old rainbow in new ways. At other times the change means knocking down the old and creating an entirely new structure. It can get messy.
This is why grief and loss don’t have prescribed stages. You can’t be certain at the beginning of what will have to go, or be rebuilt, or created from an entirely new blank slate! And yet as I write these words, I can tell you that there is hope out there. You might not be ready to hear hopeful words, but I’ll let you know they are present in this messy process.
Grief around Suicide
There is one form of grief that lives in places that not all those who grieve must face: Suicide.
The grief that stems from a loved one, or friend, having completed a suicide is type of grief that is different from what most have to experience. It is filled with the added component of emotional trauma. While physical trauma can be a part of a loved-one’s death process, the type of trauma that develops from a suicide is really different. The trauma can begin with finding the note, or the body. While all grief causes what I call the “grief bubble” with suicide, this bubble is on steroids!
The pain from this type of loss affects us in ways that other grief and loss does not. There are intense feelings of loss, despair, and blame. What did I do, or not do? Why didn’t they leave a note? Why didn’t they say out loud what they said in the note? How could they _______? All of it is hard to take, and deal with, and people distance themselves from others in ways that they don’t do with other forms of grief and loss.
Many people don’t understand how the grief from a suicide is different. If those who grieve need to be heard, those who grieve due to a loved-one’s suicide need even more listening! They need to be heard until they don’t need to talk about the note, the body, the abandonment, the anger, the guilt, the whatever, any longer. Being heard is crucial!
You might be asking, “How do I know if I need to seek professional help?” What I tell people is that the first six months are going to be really hard. You are going to have some good days and some lousy days. There might be times when you don’t want to do anything. The things that you once did with your loved-one might be very difficult to face and enjoy. Grief is like physical pain: the more you fight it, the worse it gets. So don’t fight it! Relax into your sadness and pain and allow the feelings to surface, whatever they are. Every episode of grief is different. You might have handled it well before and this time around find yourself struggling.
When do I seek help?
The simple answer to this question is when you feel you need to. (I went for help after my husband had been gone for six months) A deeper answer would be that if you are finding that you are not caring for yourself well enough or are finding that you are neglecting vital areas of your life, you might want to consider bringing someone of a professional nature into the process. Remember that grief just IS. There is no right or wrong way to experience grief. AND it is important to care for yourself, your needs and those you have responsibility for. My concern for you would be this latter statement. Seeking professional help can serve as a support during a period of time when others most likely won’t understand why you aren’t doing whatever it is that they think you should be doing.
A note on dealing with others:
If your family and friends are commenting that “aren’t you over that yet?” politely but firmly tell them “No,I’m still working my way through_______ and it is going to take me some time to do so.” Set your boundaries and claim the space you need to heal.
I know this has been long and that you might have struggled to read the words on the page. So, here is the rest of the information.
I work with:
Support Groups (Open ended)
My fees per hour:
Support Groups: $25 per session.
I maintain a limited amount of $60 slots for clients who cannot afford to pay the full fee.
I do not accept insurance, but I can provide you with information for an out-of-super plan bill.
To contact me, fill out the Contact Form and we can go from there.