Losses in a person’s life are grieved as uniquely as the individual person. The age at which a person experiences a loss impacts both the grief process and the developmental process. As they gain more understanding of the loss, and as they hit some of life’s milestones, grief reactions can resurface. This is normal and healthy.
Having a caring, supportive environment when experiencing grief reactions can ease some of the pain. Grief counseling can bring clarity to a time of chaos and confusion, and help in the healing process.
Sudden or traumatic death like suicide, homicide or an accident also has distinct grief processes. There are ways to get through this that can reduce traumatic responses and allow for the changed relationship with our loved one to be acknowledged. (Because we still love them, though they are no longer physically with us.) Grief can also become complicated making the grieving process more difficult. Some signs of Complicated Grief* are:
• Persistent denial with delayed or absent grieving
• Inability to acknowledge the loss or an unwillingness to discuss it
• Depression, suicidal thoughts and impulses with self-destructive behavior
• Prolonged physical complaints without medical findings
• Progressive social isolation
• Persistent anger and hostility
• Strong, intense and sometimes violent reactions
• Feelings of guilt that are prolonged
• Development of addictive behaviors
• Long term preoccupation with memories of the deceased
In grief counseling our goal is to assist in the healing process in order to find a “new normal” in the wake of the loss.
*Adapted from: Simons, R.C. (1985) Understanding Human Behavior in Health and Illness (3rd ed., p. 505). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Wolfelt, A.D. (1996) Healing the Bereaved Child: Grief Gardening, Growth Through Grief and Other Touchstones for Caregivers. Fort Collins, CO: Companion Press