Grief Answers

What’s the best way to cope with grief?

I'm sorry to hear you lost your dad, it sounds like it was a very traumatic time for you.  Perhaps being aware of your mum's grief and her living alone, has triggered the original feelings of grief for you.  It is hard for your mum to live on her own for the first time in 60 years, but it is also important you are able to live your life too. It is only a year ago since you lost your dad and I think it is normal for feelings of deep grief to resurface when a major life event happens such as you moving out of the family home. The crying, wading through quick sand and confusion are all very normal in grief.  It does sound like it's hard for you to think of your life going ahead when your dad's has come to an end. It must be hard to imagine a future life without him in it and what that means for you and your mum. You miss him and want him back.  It might be helpful for you to think about Tonkin's model of grief.  His theory is that when you first lose someone the grief feels big and the life around it feels small.  In time the life around the grief gets bigger but the grief doesn't go away, it stays the same size.  This is helpful in accepting that grief is now a part of your life but you can build your life around it.  Your life doesn't have to stop because your dad isn't here and you also can't put your life on hold for your mum either.  Think of grief like the yolk in a fried egg, at first the white around the yolk is small, but eventually the white gets bigger.  However the yolk (grief) stays the same as it always was.  You will always miss your dad but it is ok to move on with your life and make plans as well. Another way of looking at grief is to think of life as a river. You are floating along the river of life calmly and then suddenly you lose a loved one and you fall straight down a waterfall. It takes a while to get your bearings and you feel you are constantly being bashed on the rocks.  Eventually the bashing gets less and less but occasionally a rock will still hurt you or you will be consumed by a wave. Eventually you leave the rocks behind and the water feels calmer again with less waves. You are then able to continue your journey in the river of life but every now and then something might trigger you and you might find yourself in the rocks again or hit by a wave.  Remind yourself this is temporary and this is very normal, especially if there is a big life event happening.  Take time to feel the difficult feelings but don't let them totally consume you. All that you are saying you are feeling is normal but those feelings will pass.
(Level, 5, Psychotherapeutic, Counselling, Level, 4, Therapeutic, Counselling)
Answered on 08/03/2022

Are You Willing To Help With A Situation?

Hello. Thank you for your question. I am Sarah Bentley, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and I am responding to your question. I am glad that you reached out for assistance in your life, that is the first step in working to improve in the challenges you maybe be facing. The approach I generally take in therapy is person centered along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Every situation is different and I believe individualized care is important. Anxiety is a normal human process; it can be helpful to us at certain times, however when it causes dysfunctional concerns in our lives that is when it can be problematic. It is important to be able to figure out what might increase the anxiety by increasing self awareness. Being aware of physical symptoms that occur can help. Also having awareness of external situations that happen in the environment that could increase the anxiety. For example, with the physical symptoms this could mean one might experience tension, feel hot, have a stomachache, or chest pains. As for the environment, some social situations can increase anxiety for a person. Also certain traumatic experiences could also impact anxiety as well.  We could most definitely process the anxiety and possible coping strategies. We could utilize relaxation techniques as well as grounding techniques. Some of the techniques are more physically focused, some more mental, and others a combination of both. We could also discuss different types of guided imagery and meditation. Grief can be challenging depending on the situation, whether that be loss of a loved one, relationship, or life style. Everyone's journey with grief is different and should be treated with sensitivity. Grief can be complicated at times. There are general stages in grief such as denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. How a person goes through these stages is different and can happen at varying times. There is no timeframe for grieving. This is also why it is important that the counseling be personal and individualized. A person might need to process the different stages and figure out what approaches work best for them to process the emotions. 
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 07/26/2022

How do I move past the sadness and anger from the loss unexpectedly of my son who passed at 38 yrs?

I'm so terribly sorry to hear about your devastating loss. I can't imagine how you are feeling.  The loss of a child is so heartbreaking, as we expect them to outlive our parents.It is normal for you to feel this pain and loss. I wish I had better news, but he was your child and nothing is ever going to replace that loss. The pain will be with you for the rest of your life. Finding a therapist or a safe person to talk to can help you through the grieving process, but the loss will always be felt. Sometimes, finding a local support group to help in your grieving can be very beneficial. To hear others people's stories about their loss can be comforting; to know they are grieving and going through what you are experiencing, can ease the pain too. They can also provide a wonderful support outside of the group and can help you build friendships that can help ease the loss and fill the void. They say there are seven stages of grief and over time, the intensity of the loss will lessen, but to be honest with you, the loss of the child is devastating. In hearing your story, there seems to be significant trauma related to his death. You may be experiencing some Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from witnessing your son's death and feeling helpless or feeling you could have done more. If these memories continually replay in your mind (over and over again), you can't sleep or eat, have the same vision/memories/dreams, it may be good to seek a psychiatrist to help you overcome the trauma and get on medications to help ease the symptoms. Overall, it will be good for you to get a professional therapist or a support group to be with you on this journey of healing so you don't feel alone. If finances are tight, church clergy are free and can offer wonderful support and a listening ear without breaking the bank. It will be important for you to share your pain and release these feelings so they don't build up. 
Answered on 07/26/2022

How to cope with grief of losing dear one unexpectedly?

Hi Jiju, Let me first say how sorry I am for your loss. Losing a loved one is the hardest thing,  especially when it is a parent and even more so when they were otherwise healthy and have died unexpectedly. My heart goes out for you and your mom and brother.   Grieving is a very personal thing and a journey that is unique for every person. There is grieving that will occur with you as a family and then grieving that will be your own with the personal experiences you had with your father.  When someone close to us dies unexpectedly there is a shock dimension also that has its own level of emotion and effect on our systems.  Grieving is about love and caring. I like the words of grief expert, David Kessler, who says, "Death does not have the power to end our relationship with our loved ones."   I agree with this as our parents and other loved ones live on through us.  I would highly recommend two resources available. One is through a website called, Commune. There is a free 5-day presentation by David Kessler called, "help for the hurting heart".  There is another recent video put out by Kessler named  'when a parent dies". You can find this at, https://www.davidkesslertraining.com/when-a-aprent-dies-dk. The early days of dealing with the loss can be some of the hardest as this is a time of pure grief and "free fall" when things at times just don't feel real.. like a dream... It's important for you to know and have the support to know that this will change and although we never really stop grieving the loss of a loved one... the saying "time heals all wounds" does have some truth to it.  I really like what Kessler says when he says that death does not have the power to end our relationship with a  loved one.  They live on through our memories of them. Through the things they said and did, through the ways they were and their personalities and quirks.  It is important that you and your family take the time you need to grieve the loss of your father. Kessler refers to grief as a very organic thing. That we don't have to direct the grief... the grief is like a river that will take us where we need to go.  It is important to not do grief alone also. Reaching out with your question and or having a counselor to talk to and work things through can be very helpful and supportive. It speaks to a strength in you that you reached out here.  There are no easy or magic answers or solutions to dealing with the loss of a loved one. However, keeping them alive in our hearts and finding the support to help get through can help ease the burden.  Warm regards to you and your family Dave  
Answered on 06/23/2021

How do I forgive my parents and stop them from triggering me?

Dear Bec,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me the dynamics between you and your family, and your struggles with forgiveness regarding the pain you've been suffering from.    We do have the right to be angry at how the lack of courage from the ones who have hurt us and have left us feeling unresolved and unfairly treated. It could be true that because of how much shame and guilt the other person is feeling, they might not ever have the courage to come to us, acknowledge what they have done and apologize.   They have hurt us once in the past, yet by allowing this resentment to build, I am afraid that it means we are giving them the license to continue hurting us.   It is unfortunate that this is a situation where it doesn't seem to be fair, the ones who have wounded us continue to live their lives while we are still sitting in the wounds. I can understand how frustrated and angry that feels, I would be feeling the same way given in this situation.   Meanwhile I am also thinking about our future, your future and what is best for your interest. On that note if you would like, I would like to propose forgiveness. Not to agree / accept the person's wrong doing or letting them go from being hold accountable, rather this forgiveness is all about setting ourselves free from continue being hurt / controlled by this person's action / inaction.   As you have been practicing kindness, I am sure you have noticed that we have much control over how we want to feel and we can make choices to promote kindness within ourselves, regardless of how others treat us or what life brings us.   “Forgiveness is the most powerful thing that you can do for your physiology and your spirituality.  Yet, it remains one of the least attractive things to us, largely because our egos rule so unequivocally. To forgive is somehow associated with saying that it is all right, that we accept the evil deed. But this is not forgiveness. Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds.” ~ Wayne Dyer   Here are some thoughts that I have when it comes to forgiveness, perhaps some benefits when we practice letting go of resentments and allow forgiveness to bring peace and healing back into our heart:   1. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves   “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” ~ Maya Angelou   Your mind might try to convince you that forgiveness is “letting someone off the hook,” and that you are in fact doing those who mistreated you a favor by forgiving them, but the truth of the matter is that you are doing yourself a favor.   Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, to be at peace, to be happy and to be able to sleep at night. You’re not doing this for them, you’re doing it for yourself, to set yourself free from the feelings of hurt, anger and helplessness that kept both of you attached for so long, and to be at peace.   2. Forgiveness is an act of strength   “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute if the strong.” ~ Gandhi    Contrary to what you have been led to believe, forgiveness is an act of strength. You don’t forgive because you are weak, but because you are strong enough to realize that only by letting go of resentments you will be happy and at peace.   3. Forgiveness is a sign of self-love   “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.    Love yourself enough to let go of all the toxicity from your life and free yourself from all the anger, bitterness and resentments.  If you’re mad, be mad. Don’t hide and suppress your feelings. Let it all out, but once you’re done with being mad, allow forgiveness to enter your heart. Let go and love!    4. When you forgive, you find peace   “If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.” ~ Ajahn Chah   Peace of mind is what you find the moment you let go of any grudges and any resentments you might be holding on to. The moment you say to yourself: “It is time to let go, it is time to forgive”, that will be the moment you will find peace.    5. If you forgive, you will be forgiven   “In this world, you are given as you give. And you are forgiven as you forgive. While you go your way through each lovely day, you create your future as you live.” ~ Peace Pilgrim   In life, we get what we give, and we reap what we sow. And since we’re all humans, and we all make mistakes, the more we forgive others for the past, present and future mistakes, the more others will forgive us when we will make mistakes. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. That also means forgiving ourselves. The more we practice forgiveness, we will find ourselves having more grace and compassion for others, and for ourselves, which would result in peace, comfort and calmness.   I hope this is helpful. Again I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to navigate these waters, especially when some of these pain and acts are ongoing. I just want to acknowledge your courage in seeking to learn about forgiveness.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to learn your thoughts, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/24/2021

Is it covered by sun life insurance through my work

Hello Shelley,   Thank you for reaching out on this platform to seek guidance.  First of all, I do want to thank you for taking the first big step in seeking out for some assistance and support during this difficult time.  I am sorry to hear about the circumstances of the loss of your nephew, this has to be a difficult episode, especially when it is compounded by other complicated matters - hard to deal with and I am sure it is taking its toll on you. Unfortuanately, I am not able to answer your question directly if Better Help accepts your personal insurance coverage for therapy services because each case is unique when using Better Help but here is what you can do: To contact Better Help Platform simply click on this link below to ask your specific question directly to them: BetterHelp.com  They will send you a confirmation email and respond back with your answer fairly quickly.  I hope that helps.   I would like to offer you some reassurance and perhaps some good tips on using this site to your best advantage so you receive an efficient service.  From the onset of services with Better Help Services you can choose your therapist based on preference, for example, gender, age, race, member testimonials and information about the clinicians experience level - that in itself makes it a unique way to try to get the best match for you and what you need.  This is a major advantage and can determine a successful outcome for you. Using this online platform is proving to be a most efficient way to get the help you need quickly and be matched with the most appropriate therapist given your specific needs.  You can get your first live session (video, phone chat or live messaging options) arranged very quickly according to yours and yor assigned therapist schedule.  Even while you are waiting for your first live session to happen you can message back and forth with your assigned therapist so you speed the process up immensly for yourself.  This online platform allows you to receive help in the form of worksheets which are very informative and useful which are chosen as they relate to your specific needs.  You will also have the opportunity to ask your assigned therapist about sending you worksheets ahead of and inbetween sessions for the duration of your contract.  Again, a very effective option if you are looking to have services for a brief period due to your financial needs. From a therapists' and a clients' perspective the online therapy on such platforms as these is reported to be a very effective way to get to the work phase because most often the clients are relaxed because it is provided in your own setting and location - a huge barrier for many is actually getting time to get to an office appointment.  So, it is most financially cost effective in the longrun. Better Help also offers you the opportunity to sign up for Groupinars - these are basically group sessions with other members giving you the opportunity to share experiences and ask questions, learn more about specific issues.  The Groupinars are run by experienced therapists and posted on the site.  These Groupinars are included in your membership.  Topics vary from from topic to topic, week to week so you can chose which you sign up for according to your availability, need and interest. When you consider your choice of therapist have a good look at the profile of the therapists and I would strongly suggest you find a counsellor who is well versed and experienced in grief therapy priniciples and practices as well as someone who is experience in trauma therapy techniques.  The interventions of grief counselling combined with a trauma focus are effiecient and in my experience can for so many people been hugely effective with positve outcomes in a short period of time. I hope I have been able to offer you an answer to your question as well as offer some helpful tips and advice on how to get the most 'bang for your buck' from this service.  I wish you well and I hope you receive a favorable answer regarding your question about your insurance coverage from Better Help!   Kind Regards, Gaynor (LCSW)
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 05/22/2021

What grief does to your body?

Grief is a deep depression, sadness, or sense of loss.  Typically, it occurs when a loved one passes away. However, it does not have to be connected to the loss of a person.  It can be connected to losing a pet, a job, or not having someone around for an important event.  Complicated grief is different than everyday grief or depression.  Complicated grief is typically when a person refuses to accept reality or tries to rewrite history.  It is pervasive and always present, whereas depression and uncomplicated grief come and go in waves, a person can continue to function in day-to-day life and maintain a sense of humor about things. Grief can have a huge impact on a person both physically and emotionally.  Emotionally, grief is a state of depression, and it can bring anxiety and stress as well.  Because of the chemicals released when a person is experiencing grief, depression, anxiety, stress, the body is also affected.  Research has found that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain that physical pain does, hence the release of chemicals or hormones from the brain and into the body.  The release of these hormones in quantities larger than normal impacts the body in ways we often do not think about or realize. The physical impacts grief (usually extreme grief) can have on a person’s body include systemic inflammation and lowering how well the body responds to and handles stress.   When both of these are not working the way they are designed to or are supposed to, there is an increased risk of heat-related illness, including heart attack or stroke, and even death.  Extreme grief can exacerbate old physical issues or even cause new ones. Grief batters the immune system, which can also leave a person open to ailments or illnesses, including an increase in blood pressure and an increased risk of blood clots.  There is also something called “broken heart syndrome,” which changes the heart muscle so much that a heart disease forms, and it mimics the symptoms of a heart attack.  This is typically experienced by someone who has lost a spouse.
(LISW-CP, LCSW-C, LCSW)
Answered on 05/17/2021

How can grief affect the brain?

Grief is a common occurrence in life. Experiencing the loss of a relationship, a loved one, or even denial of a desired school or work position can result in intense feelings of grief. Sadness, anger, pain, and fear are often associated with grief. While most of us are familiar with the emotions associated, fewer of us are aware of the impact that grief may have on the brain or how it responds to loss. The brain views and approaches grief in the same way that it does a traumatic event. Trauma to the brain is often associated with physical head trauma, but grief and emotional trauma impact the brain as well. Emotional traumatic brain injury is a relatively new concept that researchers are steadily building a case for. Emotional trauma is thought to cause changes in brain function in the same way that physical head trauma may. The brain responds to lose as experienced with grief with the stress response cycle or fight or flight response. This causes a chain reaction of events in the body meant to prepare us to address a threat. Because grief is an ongoing process, this activation of the fight or flight system may be ongoing. The effects of ongoing activation of the stress response cycle are well documented. Physical symptoms like headaches, sleep disruption, restlessness, agitation, stomach upset, physical aches and pains from tight or stiff muscles, and more can result. The long-term impacts on the health of ongoing activation of the stress response cycle can impact overall health. People also tend to associate grief with the idea of stages or steps as a process because of the well-known five stages of grief model introduced many years ago. For some, this model of grieving may resonate, but for others, it may not. Grief is a process that is unique to each individual, and it may not proceed in an organized way, and “stages” may repeat themselves many times. If you’re experiencing grief after a significant loss, feelings of intense sadness and pain, changed sleep, and more can be normal parts of that. If you feel that waves of grief are interfering with your ability to function through your daily routines and obligations, or if you begin to experience signs of depression-like feeling hopeless or thoughts of suicide, talk with your doctor, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/17/2021

How can grief affect decision making?

Grief is typically experienced after the loss of a loved one, usually a spouse or life partner.  Grief impacts every person differently; the grieving process is different for everyone, and the length of time it takes to go through the process is also different. Grief impacts people on both an emotional level and a physical level as well.  Grief can confuse and often be a period of adjustment for people as they are figuring out and learning how to navigate life and life-impacting decisions independently.  Because of this, it is often recommended people delay making life-altering decisions for a while until they have begun to adjust and accept their new reality.  In addition to confusion, people can also experience memory loss.  Both can occur because a person’s brain is actually functioning differently than someone who is not experiencing grief.  There is actually a disconnect in the brain, and it may be imperative for some people to write things down. It is often recommended to wait six months before making any major, life-altering decisions which can include: buying or selling a home, eliminating memories or possessions of the deceased person, quitting one’s job, moving in with family, loaning money out, or even making major investments. Grief has many different elements that include, but are not limited to, depression, anger, denial, and acceptance.  When a person is in one of those stages and experiencing one of the emotions previously listed, that person may make a completely different decision if they were experiencing a different emotion.  Some of the decisions may be wrong for the moment or the long term and can be, at times, difficult to change. When making decisions based on emotion, it can also be called a knee-jerk reaction.  When a person makes a decision when they are in an emotional state, they often cannot look at consequences (healthy or unhealthy, positive or negative) in an unbiased way and are focusing on the moment and not the immediate, foreseeable, or long-term future.  If a major decision must be made while grieving, the grieving person should reach out to friends and family for support before making the final decision.
(LISW-CP, LCSW-C, LCSW)
Answered on 05/17/2021

Can grief make you tired?

Grief is often called a process, and it is. Losing a relationship, a job, or a loved one can result in the experience we call grief. Loss can have a profound impact on both the mind and body. We most often associate grieving with a set of emotions like sadness, but it is also a physical process. When we are experiencing loss, our brains are likely to perceive the loss as a threat. The threat may be to our identity, such as when losing a partner. Without our status as spouses or caretakers, we may feel lost and threatened. Without a needed job, we may feel our very means of living are threatened. Our brains are designed to detect threats so that we can respond and survive. The brain responds in the same way to a loss. A threat is detected, and the fight or flight system activates. This results in a flood of hormones and neurotransmitters designed to prepare our bodies to fend off a perceived threat by fighting, fainting, freezing, or fleeing. With grief and loss, these means of self-preservation aren’t necessarily helpful, though. We can neither fight nor flee from a loss. Grief also uniquely comes and goes, often being described as coming in waves. This means that our fight or flight response may kick on and off with each crash of a wave and its recession. In this way, we are constantly entering the stress response cycle. Our fight or flight system results in a series of physical changes in the body, leaving us feeling tired, exhausted, and fatigued. Feeling tired may make it difficult to stay awake, and our sleep cycles may become disturbed, ultimately resulting in additional fatigue or exhaustion. Fatigue and tiredness are also symptoms of depression, which can be a complication of the grieving process. It’s important to talk to your doctor or a licensed mental health professional if you notice tiredness that doesn’t seem to go away or if it is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit your local emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/17/2021

Can grief make you sick?

We commonly associate grief with emotions like sadness, fear, or guilt. Grief can also be a very physical process, which can result in physical illness. The pain of loss, whether the loss of a job or a loved one, causes the stress response cycle or fight or flight system in the body to kick on. This results in a flood of hormones released by the brain and body to prepare us to fend off the threat that we have detected. The difficulty is that the threat that a significant loss poses isn’t one we can fight off, run from, or faint to avoid. Grief is ongoing, a continual process that lasts different lengths of time for different people. While the five stages model of grief is popular and well-known, grief isn’t a linear process, nor are the five stages experienced by everyone who grieves. The ongoing process of grief is often described as coming in waves. A normal day that seems to be going fine may later be disrupted by a memory triggered by an unforeseen event, which results in a fresh wave of sadness – and a fresh restart of the fight or flight response. The stress response cycle can cause its own set of physical symptoms: Headache Stomach upset Rapid heart rate Increased blood pressure Disturbed sleep Changes in appetite Ongoing activation of the fight or flight stress response cycle, as may occur with grief, can also impair the immune system’s ability to respond to threats like the common cold or virus. This means that for some people, susceptibility to sickness during the grieving process may occur. Grief is unique to each person and each situation, so is patient with yourself during grieving. If you experience physical symptoms or become overwhelmed to the point of being unable to complete daily responsibilities, talk with your medical provider about what you’re experiencing. Grief can become complicated by depression and may require intervention. Speaking with a therapist who works with grief can also be helpful to processing grief, learning supportive coping skills, and having a safe place to explore and express what you’re experiencing fully. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit your nearest emergency room or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/17/2021

Can grief cause physical pain?

Grief can be a very physical experience. Many people describe the sensation of their heart as physically aching. Memories may be triggered that rush over you and cause your heart to leap, your stomach to lurch, or chills to move across your skin. The feelings of sadness, racing thoughts, tearfulness, and shock are familiar parts of grief. Grief is also described physically – as though waves of it come and go. Being hit with a wave of grief on a day that seems to be going relatively well is a common experience for grieving. Grief has many impacts on the body. Inflammation can be caused by grief, and this may increase the symptoms of other health conditions that you already experience or even cause new ones. The immune system can become depleted, and you may be more likely to experience colds and other illnesses. Blood pressure rises as a result of grief, resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular issues. These physical impacts of grief occur due to the activation of the stress response cycle or fight or flight response. Our loss is perceived as a threat in some way, which activates this system, and may continue to do so as we are hit with waves of oncoming and receding grief. If we aren’t able to return to a pre-stress level due to an ongoing stressor or situation like grieving, we are exposed to the stress hormones and processes in the body in a long-term way that can have lasting impacts on overall health. Emotional pain also activates the same parts of the brain that physical pain does, so in the brain, there is little difference between processing a physical injury resulting in pain and an emotional injury resulting in pain. If you’re experiencing grief and physical symptoms, talking with a grief counselor can be helpful. Grief is unique to each person, and there is no right or wrong way to move through it. If you begin to notice that grief is ongoing, there is less respite in the form of “waves,” you may consider talking to your doctor or a licensed mental health professional for treating complex grief or the potential of depression triggered by grief. If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, go to your nearest emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/17/2021

Why grief counseling is important?

Grief is such a difficult emotion to experience when you are in the thick of it, and it can be confusing in how to deal with it.  When we are experiencing grief, it can also feel so hopeless and like the weight of the emotion will never be lifted. Grief counseling can be a really healthy outlet to turn to whenever you are experiencing grief. One common reaction to grief is to avoid it because it is so uncomfortable.  Grief is something that, for a lot of us, is experienced not very often, which can make it that much more difficult to experience when we do.  Due to this, some people will try to avoid it and push it under the rug. Grief counseling can help you be present in what you feel and make sure you are processing the emotions rather than avoiding them.  When we avoid grief, it is dangerous to become “complicated grief,” which can be much harder to cope with and much longer-lasting.  Grief counseling can be a healthy way of making sure you deal with grief so that it does not turn into complicated grief.  When we experience grief, it can be easy to feel confused about the emotions we are feeling.  A lot of us experience very confusing questions when we experience grief that can be hard to understand.  For example, some of us might ask ourselves existential types of questions that can be really overwhelming.  A grief counselor can help validate your emotions and process through the difficult questions you are going through.  Grief counselors are a great outlet to have someone to listen to that is unbiased.  They will have experience listening to others that have experienced grief and can be that listening ear for you. Grief counselors are also really knowledgeable of the grieving process and can help educate you about what you are experiencing and what you will experience.  That can be very comforting to know that someone understands what you are going through and can help give you somewhat of a road map of what to expect ahead. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 05/10/2021

What to do when grief turns to depression?

Grief and depression share some symptoms but are distinct from one another. It’s important to determine whether or not a person is experiencing grief or depression because a depression diagnosis and treatment can be lifesaving, and grief after a loss can be a healing experience. While grief and depression are distinct, they can coexist, and sometimes grief can trigger a depressive episode. Grief is often caused by loss of some kind. This can be the loss of a loved one, divorce, or even the loss of a job. Depression and depressive episodes can be triggered by major events like a loss with grief or other things. The symptoms that grief shares with depression include: Sadness Difficulty sleeping Changes in appetite Weight loss The major difference between grief and depression is that grief tends to lessen over time and often is reported as coming in “waves” that are triggered by reminders of the loss you’ve experienced. A person may feel relatively well and then become hit with a wave of grief. Depression tends to be more constant or persistent. It’s important to note that there is no “right” way to grieve, and the process may not follow a linear set of stages. Grief is unique to each person. Treatment isn’t always needed or recommended for grief unless it becomes complex and hampers the ability to function from day to day in normal activities. When grief is so severe that it interferes with life or sleep problems result from it, talking with your doctor about medication to help may be a good idea. The doctor can also screen you for depression and may prescribe antidepressants if necessary. Working with a grief counselor or therapist who specializes in grief can be very helpful as well. Treatment for depression often involves medication, therapy, or a combination of both. If you’re concerned about determining which is affecting you at present, talk with your doctor or a licensed mental health professional for an evaluation of your symptoms and circumstances. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support, or visit your local emergency room.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/06/2021

What can Grief do to a Person?

It may not always seem it, but it is a natural thing for people who face death and the people they leave behind to experience moving through various stages of grief. But unlike most conventional models of stages, such as the stages of development, stages of grief do not necessarily occur in order. We do not complete one and then move on to another one either. We can hop around, moving from one stage to another or maybe even experiencing segments of one for an extended period of time and never even experiencing other stages at all. Grieving is an extremely personal, individual, and unique experience. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist and pioneer in the studies of grief established a model of five stages to grief that has been expanded on by some but essentially stood the test of time. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – and as each stage’s name implies, the emotional and physical effects are as varied as the people who experience them and the intensities in which they go through them. Grief is actually a form of acute pain connected to a loss that we experience. However, it goes beyond that since it may seem as if it completely overtakes because it is about the loss of what we love. If the ‘thing’ that we have lost was someone we have strong feelings for, say it can and often gets much more involved when we lose a loved one. Other strong emotions may be linked to the relationship we had with the person we lost. We call the ‘add-on’ of other strong emotions that link to grief complicated grief. Below is a listing of physical, emotional, and behavioral things grief can do. Physical symptoms of Grief: Hyperactive or underactive, Feelings of unreality, Physical distress such as Chest pains, Abdominal pains, Headaches, Nausea, Change in appetite, Weight change, Fatigue, Sleeping problems, Restlessness, Crying and sighing, Feelings of emptiness, Shortness of breath and tightness in the throat. Grief: Numbness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Relief, Irritability, Guilt, Loneliness, Longing, Anxiety, Meaninglessness, Apathy, Vulnerability, Abandonment. Behavioral symptoms of Grief: Forgetfulness, Searching for the deceased, Slowed thinking, Dreams of the deceased, Sense of the loved one’s presence, Wandering, Trying not to talk about the loss to help others feel comfortable, Needing to retell the story of the loved one’s death. **Adapted from Bereavement and Support, Marylou Hughes, LCSW, DPA (1995), 88
Answered on 04/30/2021

How Can Grief Affect the Body?

Grief, in and of itself, is defined commonly as the natural reaction to the loss of some living thing or someone close to us. It is a deep level of sorrow, especially if caused by the death of someone with whom we have formed a bond or affection. It usually impacts us in pieces; some refer to them as waves or bursts of intense feelings, followed by periods between the ‘episodes’ when we are more ourselves, with our sense of self-esteem and human intact. However, there are times when the episode-like timing becomes more of a constant feeling of sadness, loss, and intense pain. Other negative emotions may attach or combine with the sense of grief we are experiencing and exacerbate the impact of the emotion.  Since our emotional pain and physical pain responders are located in the same region of the brain, when this increased and complicated sense of grief emerges, our bodies are negatively impacted. Symptoms such as increased inflammation, fatigue, weakened immune systems, and prolonging other ailments are common results of how our bodies can be affected by grief.  With fatigue, you may either feel like you’re running on empty all the time, run down and want to sleep, or nap frequently; however, many times, sleep is not something you can achieve, which only serves to make the fatigue worse. Or you can experience the opposite response where you are sleeping very often and for excessively long periods of time but still feeling the strain of grieving and very fatigued despite all the sleep you are getting. If you are experiencing increased inflammation, you most likely are also feeling almost flulike aches and pains. It is not uncommon to experience shortness of breath and tightening in the chest, which one should not ignore as it can lead to cardiac issues. Headaches result very often due to the added stress brought on by grief. This may be coupled with an inability to attend to facts or a sense of zoning out, especially if involved in areas that are demanding our attention and mental energy. It also can cause a high degree of forgetfulness and confusion. Our stomachs may react to grieving by causing severe changes in appetite, either causing a significant decrease in our ability to eat or a huge increased desire to overeat. And in cases when appetite isn’t impacted severely, regular digestive issues such as feeling nauseous or an increase in upset stomach feelings. It is also not uncommon to find a weakened immune system, resulting in getting sick more frequently or experiencing more severe symptoms to what might otherwise be minor discomfort.
Answered on 04/30/2021

Can Grief Cause Chest Pain?

Experts agree intense emotions such as grief have the ability to affect the human body in powerful ways. The connection we are referring to here happens because the same brain regions where physical pain registers also get activated by emotional pain. We know this due to the present research being done to understand further why and how many painkilling drugs are also shown to ease emotional pain. And the evidence continues to mount to back the ‘same finish line’ in our brains for both physical and emotional pain. “Normal grief” usually happens in bursts or waves of sad feelings and thoughts, not continued, persistent agony of unbearable sadness. Most people who go through this type of grief are most likely still able to keep their sense of humor, still hold a healthy sense of self-esteem, and experience some ‘off’ times when they can be distracted from their negative emotions. They can be consoled. Katherine Shear, MD, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as “a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.” In these cases, where grief is ignored persistently, and efforts are made to deny or explain away reality, the risk of both mental and physical help increases. These efforts to deny or avoid reality block the body and mind’s ability to integrate healing into the system, thereby making mental health occurrences like complicated grief and depression more likely and the physical symptoms that go along with them. Other possible results of avoiding the reality of loss are increased inflammation, fatigue, weakened immune systems, and the prolonging of other ailments. In their writing on Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also knowns as broken heart syndrome, Boyd and Solh of the American College of cardiology describe the apical ballooning of the left ventricle as typically following a physical or emotional stressor; the treatment of which is inpatient care with cardiology services required. Chest pain and shortness of breath are physical features associated with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo Syndrome - American College of Cardiology (acc.org)
Answered on 04/30/2021

Can happiness exist without sadness?

In the society we live in, happiness seems to be the ultimate goal.  We work so hard at finding the things that we believe will make us happy—romantic partners, buying a new home, getting that college degree, landing a dream job, having children.  While all of these things come with components of happiness, the truth is that they don’t guarantee we will never feel uncomfortable emotions or experience suffering.  And the other truth is that that’s a good thing. Sadness, pain, and suffering are part of the human spectrum of emotion.  Though these emotions are difficult to deal with and cause discomfort, they only exist because we find meaning in things and care about elements of our world.  For example, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, that means you experienced great love for that person, and they meant something in your life.  Or if you feel sad about not getting the job you were hoping for, that means that it was something you felt was a special opportunity somehow.  Because we are beings that look for and experience meaning often, sadness is a natural reaction to losses or failures we endure.  It is also true that bottling up emotions or avoiding pain can shut us off from happiness.  Embracing sadness allows us to release pain and move forward into growth.  It also teaches us that we can handle sadness—that we are strong enough to sit in hurt.  Sadness is also a connector emotion, meaning it can bring us closer to others and allow for deeper connections.  If you avoid sadness and pain in your life, you may also circumvent the things that trigger them—dating, vulnerability, trying new things, setting boundaries, opening up about struggles, etc.  What’s the cost of that?  What are you missing out on or holding back from to avoid discomfort?  Tolerating discomfort allows us to experience the breadth of human emotion and to participate in life fully.  If you know you can handle pain, your grip on happiness doesn’t have to be so tight. A great resource for this topic is Brené Brown’s TED talk—The Power of Vulnerability.  Living a wholehearted life means letting yourself feel things and take risks.  Happiness then becomes a natural consequence of moving through the hard stuff. Overall, don’t deny yourself pain.  Joy can’t exist strongly without it!
Answered on 04/29/2021

Why grief makes you tired?

Grief is a complex and complicated emotion.  It is typically defined as a deep sorrow that the death of someone can cause.   There are many layers to grief.  Grief is actually made up of five stages: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance.  Each person who experiences grief experiences it in their own way, and each person’s grief is unique to themselves. Because grief can be so complicated and overwhelming, it can also cause people to become tired.  There is a spectrum of emotions that people experience when grieving that range from sadness to depression to anger to betrayal and many more.  The nature of experiencing so many different emotions in a short period of time can make a person feel tired.  And, in addition to the emotional weight of grief, there is a physical component as well. Along with the range of emotions, grief can also have physical symptoms as well.  Some of those symptoms include headaches, sore muscles, chest pain, digestive problems, high blood pressure, nausea, and fatigue. There is no timeline for the grieving process, and as stated above, each person grieves in their own way and on their own timeline.  Grieving can be stressful, and people become stressed, additional cortisol is released into their bodies.  Too much cortisol can slow down digestion, cause weight gain, increase sugars, and curb functions essential in a fight or flight scenario.  All of these physical issues caused by stress and cortisol also make a person sluggish and tired. Additionally, grief can make a person tired. Often, when someone is experiencing the depths of grief, they have difficulty sleeping because their mind is constantly racing with thoughts about the grief or the person they have just lost.  The stress, combined with lack of sleep, can also make a person tired and physically and emotionally exhausted.  The sense of loss of a person, the feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, along with possible increased isolation, adds to the level of stress, which can, in turn, exacerbate the exhaustion.
(LCSW)
Answered on 04/29/2021

Why Grief Hurts So Much?

Everyone is Different Maybe one of the most important things to know about grief is that it affects others in different, sometimes unexpected ways. Most people have heard about the stages of grief, but even though this can describe what may be experienced, like shock, denial, and acceptance, this is not always a linear journey. Sometimes people may seem largely unaffected by a loss initially and later experience great sadness. Some people may find that they are mostly unaffected by loved ones passing away but may be distraught when losing a job or relationship (grief is certainly not experienced solely in response to death). Emotional Pain Grief can be painful for several reasons. One is that we may have built a very strong connection to the individual or object. We may have confided in the person. Maybe, such as in the case of the loss of a job or relationship, it feels like we are losing part of our identity. Grief hurts because of how we have viewed what we have lost and the experiences that we have shared with that person. For this reason, it may not be so much the person, or job, or relationship, or object we miss, but rather what it symbolizes to us and the meaning that we have placed on it. Some people feel depressed when experiencing grief, while others feel numb. Some people may isolate while others may cling to others for support. Physical Pain Grief can also cause physical pain. Some people experiencing grief do not only experience emotional heartache but can also experience actual chest pain. The person may feel that their body aches or the person may feel utterly fatigued. If you are interested in learning more about the physical symptoms of grief, check out this article from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36213249. Accepting Grief Just because grief hurts does not mean that it is unhealthy or that we should avoid it. Grief allows us to process our loss and prepare to move forward. Understanding that grief is normal but can affect people in different ways, we can accept grief as part of our existence and, with support when we need it, allow ourselves to work through it without judgment.
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 04/29/2021