Grief and Loss

Although usually associated with death, the sense of loss, referred to as grief, can follow an unpleasant or even a pleasant life change. Even the most sought-after progress means loss of the old and familiar. Some situations that initiate grief/loss reactions include:

The deaths of spouses, children, parents, friends, enemies, neighbors, classmates, and pets or the losses of:

  • Material objects to robbery or fire
  • Neighborhoods to disasters or moves
  • Children to divorce or custody changes
  • In-laws to divorce
  • Innocence by betrayal
  • Sense of sexual integrity to rape, surgery, impotence or menopause
  • Sense of physical integrity to surgery, rape or illness
  • Physical strength to illness or injury or age
  • Vision, hearing or other senses to illness, injury or age
  • Sense of identity to loss of a job, changing life roles, or children leaving home
  • Money through fraud, gambling, or financial error
  • Belief in God, church, spiritual practice or heroes through disillusionment
  • Belief in one’s own abilities through experience of failure and/or shame
  • Country by exile, escape or displacement
  • Homes to disaster or moves
  • Spouses to divorce
  • Children to abortion or miscarriage
  • Pets through loss or theft
  • Sexual vigor to illness, injury or age

Symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, feelings of anger or irritability, fantasies of restoration of what was lost; and the unwillingness or inability to believe the loss has really happened. Symptoms are often found in people who have recently undergone a loss, consuming much of their available energy and attention. There is, at times, an inability to think about, attend to, or value anything or anyone except what was lost. Time has always been considered the great healer in the grieving process. A normally healthy person will,┬áin time and after experiencing the pain of the sadness, anger, false hope and disbelief over and over again “work through” the grief experience and emerge from it well and able to commit themselves to new attachments. However, sometimes urgent needs, such as employment or child care, the belief that one must “keep a stiff upper lip”, illness, a predisposition to biological process may prevent its natural resolution. At these times, help is needed. According to the degree of severity of the symptoms, treatment may include individual or group therapy and/or medications. The ultimate treatment objective is to allow the natural grieving process to complete itself, enabling the individual to move on to new experiences and new commitments. This part of the process is often helped by occupational and recreational therapy. A combination of medical, psychotherapeutic and behavior interventions is often most useful.

For More InformationIf you would like more information about grief and loss or other topics, please contact the New Horizons Counseling Center at (815) 235-6171.