If you have recently suffered the death of someone you cared deeply about, you are finding your way through the painful process of grief. People around you are likely to be very supportive right now because they understand the magnitude of your loss. They may not always give you exactly what you need, but most will make a sincere effort.
Is it possible to feel grief when you are experiencing a different kind of loss – one in which no one died? In fact, the answer is yes. There are many life passages that cause us to feel a tremendous sense of sadness and disconnection, very similar to the feelings we might have when someone passes on. For example, you may be suffering from the loss of:
- A career that gave your life meaning
- A business you founded
- A marriage or romantic partnership
- A role you played in your family or community
- A home you loved living in
- Your good health
- Your financial security
Grief is the profound sense of loss you experience during any of these difficult passages. Yet, depending on the circumstances, the people around you may not realize that you need their support. They may not understand the magnitude of your pain, so they don’t validate your loss. Working your way through a major transition that doesn’t involve a death may, therefore, feel like a lonely struggle.
SAYING GOODBYE TO A CHAPTER OF YOUR LIFE
All around us are examples of people struggling with grief that may go unrecognized. Take the life of an executive who worked for 30 years at the same company. She loved her work and was admired for her kind, helpful demeanor and ability to work well under pressure. Her colleagues loved her, and every day gave her a sense of purpose.
Then her company restructured and she was let go. Since then, she has struggled to find a new career – but an engulfing sense of sadness is making her job search even harder. She wonders if she will ever find the same sense of fulfillment that her previous role offered, and when she talks about it with friends, they don’t seem to grasp the depth of pain she’s feeling. They reaffirm that she has talents and will find a new job soon, but to her, that’s not the point. She knows she may never be able to recreate the same camaraderie and satisfaction she once had.
SUGGESTIONS FOR MOVING YOUR WAY THROUGH GRIEF AND LOSS
- Name and affirm what you are feeling. Acknowledging the depth of your pain by writing down what happened can help you see you aren’t flawed. You’re simply going through a process of grief that is natural and justified. One of the most common responses to the emotional pain that professional therapists see is the belief that there must be something wrong with us if we feel so bad. Yet strong emotions are a perfectly normal response to strong experiences. Realizing the significance of what you’ve lost will help you begin to recover.
- Be gentle with yourself. Engage in calming or distracting activities such as exercise, meditation or quiet conversations with an understanding friend. These pastimes will not only take your mind off the pain but also give you a more hopeful focus. Positive experiences can also work to reorient your brain toward future possibilities.
- Think about things for which you are grateful. Making a daily practice of noticing the good things in your life will help you realize the potential that lies ahead of you. The more you celebrate the positive aspects of your life, the more good you will find. The brain’s natural tendency is to focus on what isn’t working; this so-called “negative bias” is a byproduct of our evolution. However, we can direct our minds to observe the things that make life pleasant and worthwhile, even during grief-filled days. Something as simple as a fragrant bunch of flowers, a friend’s smile or the songbird outside your window can bring you joy.
- Engage in positive self-talk. Avoid blaming yourself or focusing on your character flaws while you’re working your way through grief. Many of us gravitate toward self-blame when something goes wrong. Even if there was something you could have done, realize that you are only human. You deserve the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend.
- Talk to someone who’s a good listener. If you have a best friend or family member who’s an empathetic listener, engage them in meaningful conversations about your pain. A professional counsellor can also be a resource for you during this time of transition. Therapists are trained to listen objectively and offer support and guidance that can help you find your way out of the dark. Remember, what you’re experiencing is very real — and you don’t have to go through it alone.
As an experienced therapist working with individuals and couples in the Edmonton area, I can help you gain perspective on the grief you are feeling. Contact me now to schedule a counselling session at a time that is convenient for you.