When someone we care about dies, it is often painful. Often, we do not contemplate how much someone means to us until they pass away. At times, individuals experience confusion while grieving because they are unsure how to move on. In the past, therapists argued that grief is a linear process. First, a person experienced denial struggling to recognize that your loved one died. Then, a person experienced anger because they are mad that the person died feeling it was unfair. Third, a person experienced something called “bargaining” meaning a person second-guessed decisions they or the deceased person made prior to dying. As an example, a grieving person might say to oneself “If I had only taken them to the doctor then they would have lived.” Grieving individuals experience depressive symptoms as a result of their loved one’s death, finally finding acceptance. In truth, these stages do not follow any particular order. Moreover, grief is often cyclical. Individuals may not find acceptance, but rather they learn how to live with the loss, especially with a person for whom they truly cared.
When working with a person experiencing grief, I first attempt to normalize each stage providing education, as necessary. Furthermore, I normalize that there will be days when a person might feel fine and may even enjoy a pleasant memory of their loved one. We often remember in grief why a loved one mattered so much to us. The most difficult part of grief counseling is helping the person feel any intense, painful feelings. A person may not want to experience these feelings because they can be overwhelming. Some people avoid experiencing emotions as they happen because it may be perceived as “letting go” of their loved one. As challenging as this process may be, it can be comforting to remember that your loved one would want you to move on.
Often, people do not ever fully accept the loss of a loved one, especially if they were close to the person who died. Rather, people learn how to live with their grief. People often tell me what they learned from their loved one attempting to share those memories with others. Clients have expressed that sharing memories with others helps them manage their grief.
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