August 4, 2014

Grief and Loss

grief-counselling-vancouverGrieving someone who is gone is a natural and healthy process which accomplishes the task of dealing with the pain of detachment and the subsequent reorganization of our sense of self. Most people know the “5 stages of Grief” originally theorized by Kubler-Ross, which are: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. This is one way of conceptualizing the typical emotions accompanying loss. However, the process is not linear, and each person grieves in a unique way.

Other theories exist and one which I utilize in my work with adults and children going through grief and loss was put forth by Bowlby many years ago, and which seems true today. He found that people experiencing grief are reacting to the painful disorganizing effect that losing an attachment can bring, much like a ship that’s lost it’s anchor. The painful change leads to 3 phases: 1. numbness, 2. disorganization, 3. reorganization. This is a much simpler overarching understanding of why losing someone is so hard. Kubler-Ross has named some of the emotions we may feel in those stages, but other emotions and thoughts also can play a part.

My work with adults, teens and children experiencing loss relies on helping my clients create meaning. We tend to ask ourselves big questions when going through the grieving process: “Why?”, “Why me?”, “What’s the point?”. These big picture questions are actually helping the client to reorganize themselves into a new framework of living. The work I do helps my clients cope with the intensity of disorganized self and emotions, and assists them to reorganize themselves into a place of accepting life in a new way.

Grieving loss tends to have a typical cycle or time frame. People tend to start to reorganize their lives organically within months of the loss, depending on the intensity of the attachment. Occasionally, the loss of a loved one can trigger deeper issues in the living. Sometimes, grief takes on an immensity of its own and a person may feel traumatized and lost in it altogether, unable to find a way to resolve it naturally. In this case, grief may go on for an unexpectedly long time, or may turn into a deeper depression, fixation or suicidal feelings. In this case, the client needs help working through the trauma that has been triggered by the grief, and needs help to re-establish a connection with themselves and their own life.