Are you feeling concerned about your grief reactions after your loss? Do you feel alone and afraid to tell your loved ones how much you are still hurting? Do you have sleep issues, body aches, racing thoughts or exhaustion that seem extreme? Do you wonder if you are ever going to stop crying?
You are not alone. These are common reactions after a loss and can be very uncomfortable and even frightening. During my time as a grief counselor at Providence Hospice and being a mentor for over 10 years, I have discovered that loss and grief are experienced differently for each person. We each have unique relationships with each of the people, animals and places we have in our lives. When our loved ones die, or you divorce a spouse, lose a piece of land you love or a beloved pet-the grief you experience is as unique as the relationship itself.
There are also ‘community/world grief & loss’ like seeing the suffering of the children in Aleppo, loss of habitat, war, violence, racism, political unrest and so much more. Many times the community /world grief can bring up helplessness and despair. Many times this type of grief is not recognized but can certainly have longterm effects on your health.
Grief process is a sacred journey that each of us must walk, and need not walk alone. Getting support can feel tough at first- trust me – I know and have been there! So find it in the way that works for you and/or your community. Some folks prefer to see a counselor, join a loss group or an online forum. Others express their loss through art, music, walking in the forest or community service projects in honor of the loss. There is no one ‘right’ way.
Grief is also a full body, mind and spirit experience that can sometimes feel very overwhelming. That is why I look at each person and family from a multifaceted lens and offer various tools for body, mind and spirit. You may experience a whole new set of body sensations like a hollowness in your stomach, headaches from crying, fatigue and changes in diet. Your mind can feel foggy, forgetful, and like you are ‘not there’. Spiritual crisis can occur where you are mad at God, or hate the Universe-to all of a sudden believing in something you never did before or completely losing faith all together. That is why this process takes so much energy-you are walking on a new planet, with territory you may not have ever seen before.
Death is not the only way we experience loss. When we change a part of our identity, physical/mental health, job, divorce or life span event; these experiences are a type of ‘death’ and can impact us greatly. These are sometimes undervalued as significant losses and can surprise us with their intensity. Don’t diminish yourself-these are losses as well and can be felt more intensely than we sometimes anticipate! Have you ever felt like others in your life don’t get it? Sometimes they won’t. If you feel a loss is significant to you, than it is worth honoring.
There are many bittersweet insights that come from loss. There are ways we are deepened, honed and can become more alive with our new perspective. These are the gems that can come from any type of loss. My intention is to let these naturally occur during my clients’ process and honor them when they show up. Death and loss can be a source of wisdom on how to live the rest of our lives.
Humans are compassionate, resilient and wise. No, really! Ok, I must admit there are times I wish we (myself included, believe me) were more evolved as a species. Yet, I have always maintained a deep respect and trust in humans’ ability to cultivate compassion, resiliency and wisdom. We all have these qualities in different ways. Even if we have never seen them in ourselves, I promise you, they are there! We do posses innate wisdom, compassion and resilience to help ourselves make it through our toughest times. These attributes are in all of us naturally but sometimes just need the right conditions to grow. Cultivation of these traits can fertilize a grief process, bringing much-needed nutrients to the wilted soul.
When to get professional help
Honestly, at ANY TIME its good to receive professional support with grief and loss. The list below provides guidelines when it is imperative to get professional help.
- When there is total denial of the reality of a death
- Persistent fear or panic
- Prolonged physical complaints without organic findings
- Prolonged feelings of guilt or responsibility for a death when the person obviously isn’t responsible
- Chronic patterns of apathy or depression
- Chronic hostility, acting-out towards other or self
- Prolonged changes in typical behavior patterns or personality (someone who was usually nice, is now quick to anger; social person who is severely withdrawn)
- Consistent or prolonged withdrawal from friends and family
- Dramatic, ongoing changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
(Acquired from Providence Hospice Grief Support Services and used with permission)
You can find professional listings on Psychology Today or call your local crisis line.
Crisis Line (1-800-548-3578).
These are some local resources in King and Snohomish Counties (Washington State) that offer some free classes, counseling and other resources. Please contact me directly if you are looking for a specific resource.
The Healing Center-Seattle, WA
Providence Hospice Grief Support -Everett, WA
Swedish Bereavement Support– Edmonds, WA
Evergreen Health Bereavement Support-Kirkland, WA
Seattle Animal Shelter Pet Loss Support Group– Seattle, WA
Pet Loss Hotline (WSU)-Pullman, WA
A Few National Websites and Resources:
Groups, Free Workshops, Nature Retreats and More
Did I mention? You are not alone. There many people all around you who have also experienced great loss. Is it exactly like yours? No, that is impossible. Still, there are somethings you will share with others who have experienced a similar loss. Although not for everybody, I believe that being held by a community with similar losses can offer a healing that we cannot do on our own. I have many resources to offer you both locally in the form of groups, nature retreats, hiking groups and free workshops.
Go to “Upcoming Events” for my current workshops and other events.
Thank you and take care good care of yourself,