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Dealing with Grief and Loss by Dr. Richard Holmes

May 22, 2013

Dealing with grief and loss is a common experience that all of us experience in the course of our lives.  It has been quoted that 4% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the death of a parent or sibling; 6% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the death of a close family friend; and 13% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the loss of a grandparent.  Grief is most commonly referred to in terms of death but individuals can also experience loss over life-altering events, such as divorce, losing a job, relocating, or losing friendships.

 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Grief impacts each individual differently. It has been suggested in the research literature that intense grieving lasts from three months to a year, but many people continue experiencing profound grief for two years or more. The response that people receive from others may sometimes cause them to feel there is something wrong with them or they are behaving abnormally. This is frequently not the case. The grieving process depends on the individual’s belief system, religion, life experiences, and the type of loss suffered. Prolonged bereavement is not unusual. Many people find solace in seeking out other grievers or trusted friends

 

I recently attended a Delaware Psychological Association conference by Robert Niemeyer, Ph.D., where the difference between normal grief and complicated grief was explored.  Here are a few highlights.

 

Normal grief:

 

a. There are conflicting emotions but the death is gradually accepted.

b. Negative or bittersweet emotions exist but are changeable.

c. Bereaved is able to form a balanced picture of the deceased with positives and negatives.

d. Future interests or pursuits can be formulated.

e. Life goals can be redefined.

 

Complicated grief:

 

a. Intrusive thoughts about the deceased

b. Preoccupation with specifics of the death

c. Withdrawal, isolation, and excessive loneliness

d. Caregiver perpetual self-blame

e. Feelings of numbness and disbelief

 

If you find yourself dealing with the emotional symptoms of grief, including irritability, depression, anxiety, distraction, preoccupation, and passive resignation, or physical symptoms, including low energy or exhaustion, headaches, upset stomach, or sleeping  excessively, it is important to take care of yourself during this period of bereavement by maintaining a proper diet, exercise and rest. Taking care of your body can help heal the rest of you, even if you do not feel inclined to do so.  If you continue to suffer, please give the office a call to set up an appointment with a therapist who can help you navigate your feelings of loss or grief.

 

 

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