Wendy Hawkins, LCSW

Empower! Educate! Evolve!

Grief and Loss Therapy

What is grief?

Grief is the psychological and emotional experience someone has for loss of any kind. Grief and loss is a complicated process and comes in many forms. Old school thought of grief was centrally based around the death of a loved one, however, new school thinking is loss can be described as anyone or anything of importance that ceases to exist. Loss can be in the form of lost relationships, people, things or concepts. We all experience grief at some point within our lifetime. How we deal with and process that grief is extremely important to having an overall sense of well-being within your life.

We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief. We all can probably name them as well. But what most people don’t know or understand is that these five stages were developed to identify the process an individual will probably experience when confronting their own mortality and ultimate death. Not to mourn the death of another. That type of grief is called bereavement and is associated with the process of someone mourning and grieving the death of another person.

There are many types of grief that can be experienced. This can range from anticipatory grief found with terminal illness up to traumatic grief brought on by an experience of trauma. No matter the perception of how large, small, important or insignificant when a person experiences loss there is a process of getting through and healing from that loss.

How to take care of yourself when grieving

The most important thing you can do for yourself when you’re grieving is to validate and acknowledge the process!! That means being patient, kind and compassionate with your emotions. I’ve heard time and time again from different clients “I should be over this by now” but the truth is we never get over loss. We learn to accept it and it fades into the background of our memory bank but it doesn’t go away. Here’s some important skills to remember while you’re grieving:

  1. Maintaining an overall sense of wellness for yourself is crucial. Getting enough restorative sleep will allow your body to recuperate from the ongoing stress you will experience when grieving. Eating healthy and drinking lots of water will keep your body and brain functioning at an optimum level.
  2. Utilize your spiritual practice to find meaning in your loss. If we can rationalize and find logic with life events, our minds will allow the loss to be put to rest. Utilize family, friends, elders and spiritual advisors to talk through your grief. Journal about your emotions connected to your loss. One of the best practices that will help process your loss is to talk about it!!
  3. Finding a way to honor your loss can be very empowering and critical to healing. This can be done through writing, art, social activism, mentoring or community activity. Find a way to celebrate the very thing or person that you’ve lost. Create a scrap book, plant a special flower, or make a donation to a charity. There are many ways to validate and honor your loss that will bring you happiness.
  4. Create a supportive group of people who will nurture and love you through your loss. This can be family, friends or support groups. Seek refuge with people who will allow you to experience the wide range of emotions that you will have over and over again. Your support system should not judge or shame you during your grieving and healing process.
  5. Dive into your self-care head first!! Hopefully you already have a self-care routine that you utilize to take care of yourself, so this should be amped up even more during this time of processing and healing. Create some coping skills that will allow you to distract yourself when the pain or anxiety becomes too intense or interferes with your daily routine of life and work.

How can I support someone else who is grieving?

As human beings, we want to comfort those around us who are hurting and many times that is in the form of language. The most important thing one can do to support the grieving process is to validate and honor that it is real and has no time limit. Many times, I feel very awkward saying “I’m sorry” to someone who has experienced personal trauma or loss of a loved one because that phrase is so overused that it tends to no longer have any significant meaning. However, we do have to find a way to convey we are empathetic and sympathetic to what someone is experiencing during their time of grief. There are many ways to support someone we care about who is experiencing grief and loss.  You can offer to help with daily chores or meal preparation. Pick up kids from school or activities. Offer to clean their house. Engage in conversation that allows the grieving person to talk about their grief at their own pace. Honor the process and ask the person who is grieving what they need in the moment to feel supported.

What's the next step?

There is no one-size-fits all solution to heal from loss. Therapy approaches that work for one person may not work for another. I believe that one of the most important components of mental health treatment is the therapeutic relationship. Whether you have only tried talk therapy or you have worked with a therapist who didn’t “click” with you, I urge you not to give up. I am a trained psychotherapist with a unique perspective and approach, and I believe the modalities I use can truly help. If we work together for a while and you don’t see the growth you expect, you can always end therapy whenever you wish. But, you have nothing to lose by trying. Please request your free 30-minute consultation at the top of the page or call 816.729.6122 to speak with me directly. Good luck and take care!

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