Grief refers to the response to any type of loss. Bereavement may include grief but typically refers to the process of recovering from the death of a family member or loved one. Both grief and bereavement may include an array of feelings that range from sadness to anger.

What is Grief?

Grief is commonly associated with feelings such as sadness, guilt, anger, and regret. During the process of grieving, it is not uncommon for some people to experience a feeling of meaninglessness. The feelings experienced in the grieving process can range from mild to quite strong. In some cases, these emotions can be quite confusing.

Grief Symptoms: When is it Normal, When is it a Problem?

Grieving behaviors can vary from inappropriate laughter to crying. Some people may feel like sharing their feelings while others may prefer to grieve in silence. Many people try to take their minds off their grief by engaging in other activities, such as cleaning or exercising.

While grief is not something that most people ever recover from completely, the intensity of the grieving process does ease over time in most cases. In some instances, an individual may experience what is known as complicated grief. This form of grieving is persistent in nature to the point that it dominates the individual’s life. It may become difficult for the person to even function on a daily basis.

The symptoms of complicated grief are similar to normal grief. The amount of time it takes for someone to go through the grieving process is highly individual and may be based on a number of factors. Complicated grief may be implicated when an individual has shown symptoms for a year or longer without showing any signs of improving and when the individual is unable to return to regular daily activities. Such symptoms may include:

  • Yearning or longing
  • Intense sadness
  • Preoccupation with the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased or with the deceased
  • Feelings of meaninglessness or emptiness
  • Avoiding any reminders of the deceased
  • Lack of desire in pursuing personal activities or interests
  • Anger

The thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be expressed during the grieving process can typically be divided into two categories. They are intuitive and instrumental. Intuitive grieving features an intense emotional experience that often involves sharing feelings with others, considering one’s own mortality, and possibly even exploring the meaning of life. Instrumental grieving focuses on minimizing or controlling emotions.

The Causes of Grief

The grieving process is simply a natural response to a significant loss. This is usually the death of a loved one but could also include other circumstances. Any type of loss can result in feelings of grief. It’s not uncommon for feelings of grief from a loss that was experienced in the past to be triggered by current events. In some cases, if an individual anticipates a loss, he or she may begin experiencing grief. This is known as anticipatory grief and could occur when a loved one is terminally ill. The process of anticipatory grief is one way that we prepare for an impending loss.

Counseling and Therapy for Grief

When the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with grief become significantly distressing or do not show improvement with time, it may be beneficial to seek help from an experienced therapist. Therapy can be an effective way to learn how to cope with the feelings associated with loss while learning how to manage related symptoms through such techniques as meditation or relaxation.

It is important to note that everyone copes with grief in a different way. Grief is highly complex as well as personal. For this reason, therapy is usually customized to meet the specific needs of the individual. Along with individual therapy, a therapist may use group therapy to assist in the treatment of someone coping with therapy. This approach may be helpful for individuals who find it beneficial to share their thoughts and feelings with others. Family therapy may also be appropriate for family members who are struggling to cope with the loss of a family member.

The time line for grieving is quite complex in nature. Due to this, there is no specific time line for this process. Some people are able to resume their normal daily activities within just a few months of experiencing a loss, although they may continue to experience moments of sadness for quite some time. Other people may only begin feeling better after about a year, while still others continue to grieve for many years without appearing to experience any improvement. The grieving process can also be complicated by depression as well as other conditions.

There is not a single way of grieving that is better than another way. Some people are simply more emotional by nature than others. For instance, some people may prefer to seek out distraction from their grief rather than dwelling on circumstances they cannot change. Developing a strong social support network and relieving stress through healthy activities, such as exercise, can help to alleviate some of the aspects of the grieving process.

One of the most complicated aspects of grief is learning how to live with the reality that a loved one is absent. This typically involves learning how to develop a new routine and even envision a future without that individual.

If you or someone close to you has developed complications related to grief, including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, or depression, it’s important to seek help from a qualified therapist. You should also seek help if you feel detached or hopeless for more than two weeks, you cannot stop obsessing about death, or if you experience a sudden behavioral change that is concerning. This could include trying to numb uncomfortable emotions through substance abuse or drinking more than usual.

While grieving is a normal response to loss and no two people grieve in the same way, if your grief has led to suicidal thoughts or does not show improvement after a period of time, it may be time to seek help from an experienced therapist.

If you find you relate to the information in this article and would like some help, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at (605) 610-9228.