By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

The experience of loss is an unfortunate reality that none of us can escape during our time here. Dealing with losses is one of the more difficult stressors that we all face at various times in our lives. Having an understanding of the process and ways to navigate this process can make it more tolerable. Grief and loss are not specific to the people we care about, nor does it mean the death of someone. Although someone passing away may be the most commonly associated with grief and loss, it also pertains to the break up of a relationship, loss of a job, end of a marriage, loss of abilities, loss of dreams, or treasured object to name just a few. The common denominator with loss is the attachment and strong feelings we possess about whatever it is we lost. Whether its familiarity, nostalgia, compassion, concern, or love, it is these feelings that bring about pain and sadness when we experience a loss.

Stages of Grief

Many people are familiar with the stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. Many people experience these stages and it can be helpful to be familiar with them as it allows us to know what to anticipate and expect when dealing with grief and loss. It should be noted that not everyone goes through all of these stages and they often do not occur in a linear fashion. Often, we see people cycle through anger and sadness repeatedly as they are grieving. Many people feel angry about their loss, which turns to sadness, only to turn back to anger and more sadness again. Even when people feel they are getting to a place of acceptance, it is common to circle back again to anger and then more sadness. If we are processing our grief well, we should see the intensity, duration, and frequency of this cycling dissipate over time so that the anger and sadness occur less often, don’t last as long, and the intensity of the feelings lessens over time. This is a good indicator that you are working through grief and healing. If you find yourself stuck in anger, or the sadness feels like it is not dissipating and turning into depression, it may be wise to seek the help of a professional.

Keep in mind that the stronger the attachment and feelings to the loss, generally the longer it may take to grief and heal. Obviously losing a spouse may take longer to grieve than a second cousin that you only saw once a year. Some people find themselves frustrated with the process or think it is taking too long. It is important to adjust your expectations to be relative to the degree of attachment, or simply let go of any expectations. Some people grieve quickly and others take longer. There is no set timeline to grieving. Just be patient with yourself. Because it is a difficult process, it is also important to expect a variety of symptoms. Many people experience loss of sleep, appetite, energy and concentration. They may be irritable, impatient, moody, distracted, overwhelmed and feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster. Often people’s functioning is diminished during this process, and it is important to adjust those expectations and afford yourself some latitude while you work through the grief.

Things that can help through the process of grieving include avoiding alcohol and drugs, getting some exercise where possible, talking and processing feelings with your support network, but balancing that with taking breaks and using healthy distractions such as socializing, hobbies, movies, or other activities that allow you a break from your grief so you can regroup and replenish your energy reserves. Grieving is a taxing process, so it is important to recharge and take care of yourself. Try to keep routines as normal as possible and avoid making major life decisions when grieving.

If you need additional support working through your loss, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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