Grief—a feeling of deep sadness over a loss—is one of the most difficult experiences a person can have. During the grief process, we may feel hopeless, out of control, dead inside, empty, pained, afraid, angry, or just about any other painful emotion one can name.
Just about everyone experiences grief at least a few times in life. The only way to avoid grief is not to care about anyone or anything, or to bury one’s feelings with drugs or other distractions—when a loved one leaves or dies, when we have a serious medical condition, when we lose a job or other opportunity, when we fail, or when, for whatever reason, we are missing something we need or want very badly.
In other words, there really is no way around grief—but there is a way through it. Avoiding grief will only prolong and worsen our suffering. Facing it, with the help of friends, family, and, if necessary, a support group or therapist, often turns out to be a healing, enlightening experience—even though it will never, of course, be a fun one.
Here is a story of grief and how therapy was able to help: Nancy, 25, was extremely depressed and angry after her brother died in an accident. She blamed him, her parents, the college her brother attended, and sometimes, herself. She couldn’t seem to imagine what life would be like without him. Even thought they didn’t always get along, she loved him and always imagined they’d be closer as they grew older. His presence in her life comforted her more than she knew. Now, she felt completely lost. In therapy, Nancy was able to process thoughts and feelings about her brother and her family that she’d never been aware of. Her therapist helped her clarify her beliefs about death, family, love, and change. Nancy was able to identify all the qualities she loved in her brother and ways she might honor those traits in her own life. She began to see her brother in herself and in her parents, and was able to work towards some kind of acceptance.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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