Copyright © Mark W. Neville. All rights reserved.
Grief Counseling, Marriage Counseling Services
Mark W. Neville, MDiv
Understanding Grief and How I Can Help
If you’re reading this because you or someone you care about is grieving, I am so sorry. You have my heart-felt condolences. You are feeling the pain of the loss and seeking help. You’ve come to the right place. I can help.
The Agony of Grief
Here, in “Quick Facts,” you receive the basic information about grief my clients have found so helpful. I trust it will help you as well.
Quick Facts for Understanding Grief
1. A normal human response to a significant loss, not a physical or mental illness. There’s nothing wrong with you, but it might feel like it. You’re grieving. Grief is painful. It’s the price you pay for love. It’s right and normal for you to grieve a significant loss.
2. An unavoidable, natural part of life. We cannot go from our mother’s womb to our own tomb without experiencing loss and grief many times. However, knowing this does not lessen our pain.
3. Not limited to death. We grieve many kinds of significant losses:
a. Divorce or the end of any significant relationship
b. Diagnosis of serious life-limiting physical or mental disease
c. Dismissal from work
d. Any other significant loss
4. A holistic, total pain, experience. It affects our whole being: physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially. Here are some common symptoms of a normal grief response:
a. Physical: fatigue, aches and pains, appetite changes, sleeping more or
less than usual, weakened immunity. 90% get sick in the first 6 months
b. Mental: difficulty concentrating, remembering, processing information,
thinking, and making decisions; ruminating on the past and loss
c. Spiritual: weakened will to live, wounded or broken spirit, unexpected
waves and bursts of sadness, anger, fear, guilty, and other emotions;
increased risk of clinical depression; guilt for feeling
d. Socially: harmful comments from others, seeking someone or something to fill the void created by the loss, isolating or over-socializing, communication difficulties, relationship losses due to no longer being a couple or family; financial losses; forced relocation; loss of familiar routines; changes in responsibilities
5. A messy process of floundering, not a specific number of clear, linear steps.
While grief has no stages, it is a journey on a well-worn path. Like other journeys, it has a beginning, middle, and end.
The beginning is the loss and its initial impact on us. We often feel numb. It’s like a dream and doesn’t seem real. The reality has not yet sunk in.
We go through the motions and take care of tasks we must complete. We expect to see the one we lost; sometimes we think we do.
The middle is usually the most difficult part of the journey. The reality sinks in. We more or less accept the reality of our loss. Our life is forever changed. We feel the total pain of grief as we are forced to adapt to our loss.
While grief has no end in this life, its active phase does resolve. It’s not something you ever “get over.” It’s something you “get through.”
You “get through” to a better place. The waves of grief become smaller and further apart. You get to a place where you incorporate the loss into your life as you move forward with your life.
You still have moments of grief as you long for the one you lost. Your loss affects you the rest of your life.
6. Highly individualized. Each one of us grieves the same loss differently. We also grieve every loss we experience differently. There is no one right way to grieve. The way that works for you is the way that’s right for you.
There are two basic styles of grieving:
i.Feel emotions: sad, fear, guilt, disappointment, gratitude
ii.Talk, write about what happen, share memories
i.Think things through, understand rationally, process facts
ii.Do things that need to be done. Solve problems and complete tasks
We all use both styles, but one style tends to be our primary one.
7. A process that takes as long as it takes. There is no time limit on grief. It usually lasts longer than expected.A normal grief response for the death of loved one lastsan average of 13 months with symptoms improving 6-8 months after the death. Complicated grief tends to last longer.
8. Often complicated by other factors:Not all grief responses are normal. Some are complicated by things that intensify the symptoms and lengthen the duration, such as—
a. Child’s death
b. Tragic accident
e. Unresolved problems in the relationship
f. Financial loss
As a society, we lack social skills related to grief. We’re uncomfortable with it. We want it to go away.
We don’t know what to say or do. Often, we say and do things that add suffering to rather than comfort those who grieve.
We tend to make death and grief private, hidden matters. We no longer have ways of publicly identifying who is grieving: no special clothing, veils, or other visible signs of grief; no designated time periods for grieving.
We make it a medical problem, treated with prescriptions for depression and anxiety. We also self-medicate with alcohol, illicit drugs, and distractions.
Businesses give only three days for bereavement leave: a day to travel to the funeral, a day for the funeral, a day to return, then back to work.
When you’re grieving, spend time with those who understand and help. Avoid those who don’t. Understand that those who say harmful things to you mean well and are doing the best they can.
How I Can Help
In my approach, grief therapy is about attending to, serving, and taking good care of you through your process of grieving.
I give my clients -
a. A confidential, therapeutic relationship where they feel comfortable and
safe to talk openly about their grief
b. My ears and heart. I attentively listen while they talk, so they feel heard
c. A professional perspective on what they’re going through
d. Calmer emotions, clearer thinking, and a plan to get to a better place in
Grief therapy paves the way for grief counseling.
Grief counseling is about meeting together to collaborate about how best to make your way through your grief. It’s about identifying the changes you must make, problems you face, and different options you have. It’s about deliberating and deciding how to move forward with your life.
With me you have someone who cares, understands, and helps you move forward to a better place.