Bereavement, Grief and Loss
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”Jamie Anderson, Author of Doctor Who novels.
Grief is a deeply personal and universal experience that occurs after a significant loss of a family member, friend, pet, or even a job. People also experience grief when diagnosed with a debilitating illness that signifies the end of independence. Similarly, the news of a terminal illness can suddenly bring us closer to the forgotten limitations of life. Newly separated couples can feel a tremendous sense of loss and grief. The intensity of the emotions we feel during bereavement can vary from person to person, as does the duration. Regardless, processing all those emotions and coming to terms with them is important for healing and moving on.
Stages of Grief
To that end, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist, first introduced us to the stages of grief in 1969. She had spent decades working with and observing terminally ill patients. She grouped grief into five stages, noting that they do not occur in a linear manner. Also, individuals may not experience all stages. Psychotherapists have adopted this guide to understand what their clients go through during bereavement.
Denial: Numbness and an inability to accept reality are common emotions that follow loss. It represents your nervous system shutting down to keep it from going into overdrive.
Anger: Similarly, anger towards others or yourself is another common emotion. Sometimes, you can be very angry at the circumstances of the loss if you consider it unfair, unjustifiable and cruel.
Bargaining: Some people end up feeling helpless following a loss. To regain control over your vulnerability, you may find yourself playing out “what if” and “if only” scenarios to conjure up different outcomes to your reality. Recognize these as self-soothing behaviours to help you temporarily cope with, and postpone your despair.
Depression: This is often described as the “quiet stage” of grief. If you have been running from or masking the overwhelming sadness that arrives with a significant loss in your life, then this stage represents when you have finally stopped to face the inevitable. It can be a very lonely and painful time that leaves you feeling down, foggy, heavy-hearted, tearful, regretful and even confused. These feelings can arrive in waves over time and are considered medically “normal” for bereavement. However, if you remain “stuck” in a chronic and prolonged state of grief even after a year following your loss, then you should speak to your physician.
Acceptance: This stage does not suddenly occur overnight. Instead, it grows on you slowly over time. You may never get over your loss completely, but you will learn to grow around your grief. This is when memories stop hurting when you recall them, and you are able to reconstruct a path forward for yourself.
Bereavement is a time for you to take care of yourself. Reach out to others for help and companionship to ensure you eat well and have plenty of support while you grieve. This help can come from members of your family, friends, support groups and faith groups
Many people will describe the first year following a significant loss as the worst, where heavy emotions arrive in waves like a roller coaster. After a loved one passes, you will go through first birthdays, anniversaries and family gatherings without your loved one. Memories of what you did last year may suddenly derail all the progress you believe you have made. These ebbs and flows of painful emotions can leave you feeling hopeless. Over time, family members may expect you to come out of your grief and “be better” faster than you are able to. The services of a compassionate psychotherapist can help create space to process all you are experiencing without any need to meet others’ expectations of how you should grieve.
Sometimes, individuals suffer silently about matters left unresolved when a family member passes. Others end up carrying a lot of guilt because they feel relief, instead of sadness or sorrow, with the passing of a spouse. These can be very complex emotions to work through on your own. And in the case of prolonged grief, as described above, a therapist can help you verbalize your grief story to untangle complicated emotions.
Our team of highly trained and compassionate therapists will honour your emotional experiences and provide a safe, non-judgmental and compassionate space for your healing and growth.
Therapy fees are one reason why some people avoid seeking help, and we understand this, completely. Here’s how we charge for our time. We are happy to have a frank and open discussion with you about this to ensure we manage your care in the best way possible. Our services are covered by most extended benefit insurance plans. If you do not have coverage, we also offer affordable therapy sessions at discounted rates through our internship program. Therapy is an investment in your health and happiness and it is more affordable than common belief.
Also, our blogs, authored by professionally trained therapists, are available for free on our website. We publish them regularly and feature topics that are useful for individuals, couples and families. We encourage you to visit our site often. In many cases, this information will help you understand what you are experiencing. However, our blogs do not constitute professional advice, diagnosis, treatment or therapy. You must always consult with a physician, psychologist or qualified mental health provider to professionally direct your physical, mental and emotional health.
Often a few targeted therapy sessions may be all you require. We never keep you in therapy for longer than you need. To accommodate varying schedules we offer online and in-person therapy sessions during office hours, evenings and weekends.