Is There a Way Around Grief?

Man with his hand on his faceGrief—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.

We can feel and deal with the grief, or we can choose to avoid it by many means. Yet even then, grief sticks around, showing up as depression, anger, anxiety, fatigue, or even physical illness.

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.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 12 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Jade

    Jade

    September 21st, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Grief is like darkness that comes along in everybody’s life at some point of time..We can either ask for help and a few hands to move through the darkness and into the light or close our eyes and fool ourselves into believing there is no darkness(although the closing of the eyes means more darkness-think drugs) and maybe stumble and fall.

  • Chas

    Chas

    September 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    I have learned in life that the only way AROUND grief is to work full THROUGH the grief.

  • charles j

    charles j

    September 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    Is there a way around grief? I definitely think so. But you need to accept a few things if you wanna be able to get through it. The first thing is acceptance. There can be no progress without this first step.

    The death of a loved one I think is the most common form of grief. And although this can happen due to a variety of reasons and in a thousand different scenarios, the grieving individual needs to acknowledge the fact that the loved one is now gone and focus on getting life back on track. Only then can any result come out of the effort.

  • marisol

    marisol

    September 23rd, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    There are those who focus way too much on their grief and get bogged down it, and then there are those who try to avoid dealing with it at all. There has to be that perfect medium, you know, finding that right balance to get through the grief that allows you to process those feelings, yet not let them continue to weigh you down and ultimately drown you.

  • marianstanton

    marianstanton

    September 23rd, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    “We can feel and deal with the grief, or we can choose to avoid it by many means. Yet even then, grief sticks around, showing up as depression, anger, anxiety, fatigue, or even physical illness.”

    I can vouch for that from personal experience. After my divorce I wanted to be sure I never hurt again and built walls around me that were impenetrable. I pushed away everyone that tried to stick by me and support me. I turned down every concievable invitation to connect repeatedly. I wouldn’t go out, have people over, chat on the phone or online like I used to because keeping them at arm’s length meant they couldn’t hurt me.

    And in the end got my wish for isolation. Which also brought with it depression, weight loss, exhaustion and numerous bouts of colds and flu one after another because my immune system was dampened down so much. I was a mess.

    Luckily I saw sense and got help eventually. When you’re grieving the strangest logic makes perfect sense. Be aware of that.

  • R. Tobias

    R. Tobias

    September 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    @marianstanton: You’re right, Marian. It’s better to let the pain out however you can and not internalize it because it doesn’t work. Eventually you’ll need to face it one way or another.

    Looking back myself I know I should have grieved for my mother and then moved on when I was in a healthier place and ready to, instead of burying it all. I did so because I had my ailing father to think of who was crushed at her loss.I felt I didn’t have the time to grieve for mine and to look after him as well.

    It was less than a year later that I had a nervous breakdown and it was long, slow road to recovery, during which time I was no help to him at all. That pushing away of my grief helped neither of us in the end.

  • Eli Hollis

    Eli Hollis

    September 23rd, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    If you don’t love, you won’t grieve. But what a sad and lonely life that would be. It’s not even a life, it’s an existence. You can’t know joy without experiencing pain too at some point. That’s love. And it’s worth every second of grief if that’s the price you pay for having love in your life IMHO.

  • Annamarie Gaffney

    Annamarie Gaffney

    September 23rd, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    How can you possibly avoid grief? Death is part of the circle of life and of course you’ll grieve for the physical loss of a loved one’s presence in your everyday life. But they are still there in spirit beside you every step of the way. I believe that with all my heart and soul.

    I know a lady that spoke once of her husband’s death and said he wasn’t gone, he was just getting a break from her. And that’s all it is, because you’ll meet again on the other side.

  • Sabrina

    Sabrina

    September 23rd, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    Grief is a natural part of the healing process. Complete avoidance isn’t possible, even if you have 500 therapists working 24/7 they won’t be able to help you with grief until you’re experiencing it. No matter how unpleasant grief is you must realize that you will experience it from time to time. Seeking help will determine how long this grief will last. I’m no therapist but I’ve seen a few people go to a therapist for grieving issues and they wind up doing really well. A lot of the time I assume they will take the news (death. etc) really hard but I turn out to be wrong. I’ve been friends with clients of therapists that were there only fro grief and their situation turns out much like Nancy’s did.

  • SherryErskine

    SherryErskine

    September 24th, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Not grieving is unhealthy I feel. I remember when my ex’s father died suddenly of a heart attack and the man didn’t shed a tear. I found that so weird! He shrugged it off like it was nothing. They weren’t bosom buddies as his parents had split up years before but they were in contact. I kept expecting him to break down some day and show some emotion and he never did.

    He said he was sad the day he died and at the funeral and that was the last I ever heard about it from him. I don’t think that’s good for you to be so unaffected.

  • Julianne B.

    Julianne B.

    September 24th, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    @Sherry Erskine-You don’t know that he was unaffected. Maybe he cried buckets when you weren’t around to see it, or maybe he felt it was unmanly to cry and kept it all hidden. He could have been devastated inside and not want to talk about it.

    Even in this day and age, men are expected to keep a stiff upper lip and remain composed in the face of a death. Women aren’t. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

  • A. Phillips

    A. Phillips

    September 24th, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    That’s what I think is unfair, Julianne. I’m not usually one to gripe about the different ways opposite genders are treated either. We men can’t show our grief after a bereavement as freely nor for so long as a woman can and yet we can hurt every bit as bad and as deeply as any woman does.

    And society goes on to scratch their heads about why male suicide rates are through the roof. That’s why! We keep it all in to conform to that “big brave soldier” mentality we’re taught from childhood. It’s crazy really when you think about it. We’re all human.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

 

 

* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

Title   Content   Author