How to Cope with Grief and Loss By Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC of Embracing Life Counseling, LLC and Oakland County Moms.
Everyone has experienced some type of grief or loss in their life and it is never an easy thing to go through. The average grief process can last anywhere between 2 and 5 years! Now obviously there are various stages that one goes through within that entire time frame, however it is very important to go through each stage and not get stuck in the process. Going through the entire grieving process is so crucial because it can lead to other complications if not completed. If you have not mourned thoroughly, it will make each loss after so much harder. Sometimes grief can lead to depression, anxiety, or even obsessive compulsive disorders.
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in order to learn how to cope with grief and loss, we must understand each of the 5 phases of grief. I’ve included some strategies to help with each phase.
How to Cope with Grief and Loss
5 PHASES OF GRIEF AND LOSS
- SHOCK AND DENIAL – Anger is the most common feeling associated with this phase. We often don’t want to believe that we have lost someone or something and we are holding on to the past. We want things to be exactly the same as they used to be. We feel anger because it is a lot easier to feel than sadness.
- REALIZATION – Intense sadness and guilt are often associated with the realization phase. There are several ways to help you get through this phase, however there is one thing that they all have in common. You must allow yourself to feel sad. Do not try to avoid your feelings and shrug it off. Set aside some time each day to let yourself cry or even make yourself cry to get those feelings out. They do no good being bottled up inside and will only lead to coming out at the most inopportune and unexpected times. Look at pictures, visualize memories that make you both sad and happy, and even drive by places that trigger you to sadness. Eventually you won’t be saddened by these things anymore. You want to be able to have positive memories to hold on to forever but right now your sadness is not allowing you to do that. Allow yourself to be sad!
- “THE PITS” – After the second phase most people hit the lowest phase of the grief process often referred to as “the pits.” This phase typically occurs 6 months after the loss has happened. Most people feel like they should be over the loss and recovered by this point, but that is totally not true. Honestly, the grieving is in full swing here and a lot of this is due to the fact that most of your supports that you had after the funeral, have moved on themselves. They expect you to have moved on as they have, but you are not ready to move on. This is unfortunately very normal. You should be grieving still! You experienced a huge loss and having these feelings just makes you human. Some losses are more difficult to get through than others and that is okay. It is important to take your time and process your feelings, what has happened, and how your life is going to be different in the future. Things will eventually get better, it will just take time.
- GOOD DAYS / BAD DAYS – The next phase consists of a struggle between having good days and bad days. You feel like you aren’t making progress each time you have a bad day but that again is all part of the normal grieving process. Some days you will be hopeful about your future and repairing your life around the loss you experienced. Other days you will miss your loved one and still wish they were here. Many people get stuck in this phase because it is so up and down. Often individuals need assistance from a counselor or therapist to help them get through the thoughts, and feelings that are holding them back from moving through this phase.
- REBUILDING – The last phase is the rebuilding phase. You are now able to envision your life adjusted, despite the loss you recently experienced. Some people focus their attention on helping others, or spreading awareness and paying it forward. Others focus on a new career path, creating a new family member or rediscovering dreams and goals that they once had. You will always have the memories of your loss and they will always be a piece of you. The best part about this phase is that you have mostly good positive memories about your loss and you don’t feel consumed by the sad thoughts, feelings and memories anymore. You will never forget who or what you lost, but you are a better person now because they are a part of you.
When learning how to cope with grief and loss, It is important to know that grief isn’t only about the death of a loved one. It can also be about a significant loss of something that was important to you. Sometimes it is about losing a job or being forced to make a career change. It can be about divorce, a loved one losing their health, or a friendship that has changed. Sometimes losing an animal or pet is just as hard as losing a person! They are just as much a part of your family as anyone else, and for some people maybe even more. If you find yourself stuck in sadness over the death of a loved one or a significant loss, there is help out there to assist you through it. Things can get better and sometimes outside assistance is needed to help you cope with grief.
ABOUT LAURETTE LIPMAN, MA, LLPC, NCC
Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC has over 2 years experience as a mental health therapist, and as a graduate of Oakland University, she is currently under supervision of a fully licensed professional counselor.
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For more info on How to Cope with Grief and Loss, visit www.embracinglifecounseling.com
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