Grief and Grieving

When you have suffered a large loss, you will begin to undergo a process that can be described as a normal grief reaction. Grief is poorly understood in our society and is often not tolerated for long periods of time. The more you are able to allow yourself a normal grief reaction, the less likely you are to have prolonged or complicated grief reactions or sink into a depression. Many people confuse depression and grief because of the overlap of symptoms like fatigue or loss of pleasure in life. One way to distinguish the two is to notice that grief is “working” through and the feelings you have may vary considerably over the course of a day or a week. Depression has more to do with feeling bad about who you are and everything can seem gray and dismal for a long period of time. Grief that is not expressed and worked out can turn into a low level chronic depression.

Many theorists have moved away from the model of the stages of grief and have instead adopted a theory of the tasks of grief. The 4 major tasks of grief are the following:

First, to accept the reality of your loss. This can be hard if your loss is one that you refuse to accept such as the loss of a relationship or a person whom you deeply loved. This loss will cause you to feel physical and/or mental pain when you allow yourself to become aware of it.

Your second task is to work through the painful feelings you have by acknowledging them to yourself and to those close to you. Crying, wringing your hands, a look of pain on your face or other expressions of these painful feelings can help you tolerate the pain and begin to move through it. Often the pain comes and goes without much notice, like waves in the ocean. When you accept the pain and ride it out, you will find that it is not permanent.

Grief and grieving

Crying is part of grieving

Your third task is to make adjustments to your new reality and your new environment. When you have sustained a significant loss, your world is changed and will not be the same. Your loss can be of a person, animal,relationship, job, resources, health,status or other entity.

Your fourth task is to emotionally relocate the being or entity you have lost and allow yourself to move forward in your life. There is no time limit on grief and all experience it differently and work through these tasks at differing paces. Indeed, there are some people who never recover from a significant loss but this is a rare occurrence since as humans we are designed to heal and adapt. During uncomplicated normal grief, many people do not feel the need for therapy but some do want to have a safe place to experience and express these feelings.

How do you know if you need treatment and are suffering from unresolved complex grief? Here are some warning signs: if you feel stuck and are not moving through grief and having some periods of relief; if you develop another issue like panic attacks, severe anxiety or phobias; if you rely too much on alcohol or drugs to function; if you are having other physical symptoms that are vague or not attributed to an illness or if you sense that what you are experiencing is not normal. In the case of complex grief, you may need to get assistance to help move through your grief and begin to feel like yourself again.


If you are concerned about the impact of your losses on your life and would like a consultation, please feel free to  <a href=””>contact me.</a>