Loss is inevitable, but that doesn’t make the grief easier to cope with. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone experiences loss, which feels life-altering. But can you heal from grief? The road to recovery is different for everyone, but seeking grief and loss treatment may be helpful to healing.
Sheena Miller, Clinical Manager at Integrative Life Center, said it’s important to know that any loss can have a lasting effect on anyone. She said:
“When a loved one passes, it has a permanent impact on the lives of those who are left behind. Everything from holidays, family reunions, birthdays, and vacations will forever be a reminder of the loss. While there is a certain level of normalcy that we can return to in our day-to-day activities, we are forever changed by the loss. However, grief can move to a celebration of life. We can learn to find joy in the remembrance of that person[a].”
Stages of Grief
Everyone experiences grief differently, but it’s common to go through five stages. Recognizing these stages can help you guide the grieving process and better understand your grief.
The 5 stages of grief are:
- Denial. During this stage, people usually feel numb and try to pretend like nothing happened — like they didn’t suffer a loss.
- Anger. Feeling angry about the unfairness of the situation or even toward the person who died is typical in this stage.
- Bargaining. This stage is when a person starts trying to make deals with themselves, a higher power, or even the person who died in an effort to just feel better.
- Depression. The sadness of the loss sets in during this phase. The person begins to try to accept what happened and determine how they can move on with their life.
- Acceptance. With time the person learns to cope with the loss and continue with their lives.
Some people work through the process over time, while others seem to get “stuck” and can’t transition through the stages of grief, according to Sheena.
“Sometimes there is a feeling of guilt associated with the loss that can come from someone who feels as if they didn’t do enough when the person was alive. The first thing that must be addressed is the feelings of guilt. Then the person can begin to process the stages of grief,” she said.
Ways to Process Grief and Heal From It
The stages of grief can feel isolating and endless. Be patient with yourself and allow space to heal.
Time is one of the best cures for the grief process, Sheena stated. How long it takes depends on the person and the type of loss, she said.
The emotional act of grieving “may take several months or even years for someone to fully digest the event, then process the feelings associated with what’s happened,” she said.
Ways to help process grief include:
- Connecting with others through groups focused on grief recovery
- Using distractions like spending time with friends or family
- Finding time to meditate to focus on self-compassion and working through your feelings
- Feeling the sense of loss
- Nourishing your body and mind with regular meals and snacks
- Avoiding substance use, including alcohol
- Acknowledging your feelings
- Trying to maintain a routine lifestyle
- Avoiding any major life changes
- Showing yourself grace and giving yourself room to grieve
For many, creating a meaningful memorial for a loved one can bring comfort and keep their memory alive. Funding a scholarship program or establishing a charity in your loved one’s name can help honor and celebrate their values and interests.
When to Seek Grief and Loss Treatment
Sheena shared that grief is a natural, necessary, functional human response when a person experiences a loss. But it may be time for a person to seek treatment for their grief when they start showing signs of depression, she said.
Signs of depression include:
- Lacking interest or pleasure in activities that previously brought you joy
- Feelings of excessive guilt unrelated to your loss
- Feelings of fatigue and loss of energy on a consistent basis
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Slowed speech or movements that are noticeable to others
- Changes in appetite and sleep disruptions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
Asking for help can be difficult. Talking to a grief counselor who can identify the symptoms of grief and guide the recovery process can provide comfort. By facilitating a safe, honest environment, grief counselors can help overcome the guilt, pain, and longing that often comes with grief. The change won’t happen overnight, but it can be a lifeline to cope with these intense feelings.
Just as the grieving process is unique to each person, so is treatment. A mental health professional can help determine the best type of grief and loss treatment for you. It can include a combination of individual and group therapies.
Grief can feel isolating. Group therapy or simply surrounding yourself with loved ones can be helpful in healing. Being honest about your feelings can help others feel less alone and build trust and understanding. Sometimes, finding solace in your community is the best way to heal. Build a foundation of friends, family, counselors, or support groups who will comfort you at your lows and celebrate you at your highs.
Healing from grief isn’t linear. You may find comfort in understanding the stages of grief or looking to others for help, but you’re not bound to a rule book of healing. Allow yourself grace to process your grief and find acceptance in your own time. And remember, it’s acceptable to seek the professional help you may need to heal.
Integrative Life Center is a safe place for healing and recovery. Don’t suffer in silence. Our team is passionate about helping those grieving find peace and comfort. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your grief and loss treatment.