by Nathalia Gonzalez | April 2022
Grief is the process that takes place after the loss of something or someone you love. Grief can consist of physical (e.g., Sleep disturbances, weight change), emotional (e.g., anxiety, irritability, depression), and behavioral symptoms (e.g., forgetfulness).
Contrary to what society portrays, grief is not limited to the death of a loved one, but can also include the loss of a pet, job, loss of health, friendships, or loss of financial stability. For example, losing your job or retirement can lead to the loss of a large part of your identity (ex. provider for your family), a sense of community, as well as a place where you felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Although completely normal, grief is a personal and unique experience that can be a painful and overwhelming process; a process that is complicated by living in a society that is generally dismissive of the experience of grief, increasing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Due to its complexity, it is common for individuals to be self-critical or receive criticism from others about grieving in the wrong way, taking too long or grieving too fast. Something to keep in mind is that there is no “right” way to grieve and that it’s common to experience multiple feelings at once. The feelings that someone encounters during grief are expansive, but some include:
- Sadness: A deep yearning or despair for the experience or individual
- Anger: Towards yourself, those involved, or even the individual who has died for no longer being present.
- Guilt/Shame: About the actions that did or did not take place as well as the words that were or were not said.
- Fear: The death of a loved one or loss of a job can trigger a sense of insecurity that can result in panic attacks, anxiety, and helplessness. The death of a loved one can also result in fears of one’s own mortality.
- Happiness: That although the individual is no longer here, that they are no longer in pain or suffering. With unfulfilling work, acknowledging the stress of no longer feeling financially secure while also making space for the sense of happiness at no longer feeling unfulfilled at the previous place of employment.
Understanding grief is a difficult process, here are some things to keep in mind while processing, creating a meaning making experience, and commemorating the loss that occurred:
- Acknowledge feelings with Kindness and Self Compassion: It is important to acknowledge your feelings. Try being curious or approaching self-critical thoughts of shame and guilt with kindness and an open heart; treating ourselves as we would treat a friend or loved one. It is common for this to take practice and time.
- Finding a tangible or creative way to express grief: This can be anything from journaling, writing a letter, or making a scrapbook. Commemorating the experience or the individual’s life may also look like getting involved in a cause or organization that was important to a loved one or that helps you connect to the sense of identity that was lost throughout the transition. For example, hiking for a healthier lifestyle, joining an event devoted to a specific cause, or starting a new hobby that connects to the identity or experience that was lost.
- Try to maintain already existing hobbies or interests: Continuing to engage in your interests will assist in coping through grief by connecting to things that bring you joy. A sense of routine is oftentimes a source of comfort and stability in a time of ambiguity.
- Leaning into Community: Whether it is joining a family event, a book club, meeting with friends, or church, being among others during a time of grief reduces the sense of isolation through companionship and the possibility of an empathetic ear.
Grief is an experience that shapes and can reshape our lives continuously as the experience unfolds and is revisited due to life changes, anniversaries, and and situations that resemble the previous instances of loss. It is an ongoing process. Throughout this time take the space and time that you need with a gentle reminder that grief is a unique and personal experience.
At times, an individual needs assistance coping, and that is when one can seek out or suggest support from a professional to hold space, witness their journey, and support an individual throughout their grieving experience.
While physical offices are located in South Loop and Lakeview neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois for in-person sessions, we also welcomes and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more.