Overview of Grief & Loss

Cycle of grief and pain.

Imagine you just lost someone or something important to you (e.g., death of a loved one/pet, job loss, divorce/breakup, health-terminal diagnosis). You are very upset and sad about this and it is occupying your whole mind and body. Imagine this grief as a big ball, which is squashed into a small box. Inside the box there is a pain button. This pain button gets pressed every time you move because that ball is taking up almost all of the space and bouncing off all the sides of the box, inevitably causing more pain very often. Gradually, as time goes by the ball begins to get smaller. This grief is still there, but more time goes by before it hits that pain button because there is more space in the box now for other things. This ball typically begins to get smaller in the days/weeks/years after the loss, but it never completely disappears. You will likely be able to continue on with your life, but any time that pain button gets pressed (e.g. seeing a picture of your loved one or hearing their name spoken) your grief will return. The amount of pain does not decrease, but the amount of time between feeling it increases and the amount of time actually feeling it decreases. The pain you feel represents the love and value you have for whatever was lost.

7 Stages of Grief

  1. Shock and denial: Numbed disbelief protecting you from being overwhelmed which may last for weeks.

  2. Pain and guilt: Chaotic and scary time of excruciating pain and suffering. It is important to feel this fully rather than hide, avoid, or escape it.

  3. Anger and bargaining: Difficulty with the above feelings may lead to lashing out and blaming others, asking "why me?"" or trying to make a deal with a higher power to undo the loss.

  4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness: The true magnitude of your loss saddens you. You may self isolate to think about past memories and may experience emptiness or despair.

  5. The upward turn: You begin to adjust to life after the loss and start to feel calmer and more organized. Your depression starts to lift slightly.

  6. Reconstruction and working through: You begin to feel more functional and able to focus and problem solve in a realistic way.

  7. Acceptance and hope: You begin to deal with the reality of your situation, are able to think about the future, and begin to move forward. Acceptance does not mean happiness; rather it reflects the ability to reflect with sadness on the loss without as much acute pain and suffering, and be able to find joy in the experience of living.

Symptoms of Grief

  • Intense sadness
  • Emptiness
  • Loss
  • Waves of dysphoria decreasing over days or weeks
  • Thoughts and memories of the deceased
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite / Weight loss

In your own experience, are you recognizing these symptoms within yourself or someone you care about? Reach out for support with navigating your grief today.

What to Expect in Therapy when addressing Grief and Loss

Dr. Julie Griffin addresses the loss by identifying where you are within your personal experience of grief and helping you move through the remaining stages. Dr. Griffin also addresses learning to recognize symptoms along with their triggers, develop coping skills to regulate your body, understand how emotions influence behavior, process your experiences in a new way, reduce self-critical judgment, identify values, set healthy boundaries, engage in self-care and self-compassion, learn how your grief shows up in your life, recognize how the loss may be related to painful experiences in the past, and make empowered decisions about pursuing meaningful goals.

Dr. Julie Griffin offers free phone consultations to help you determine if therapy with her might be a good fit for you.

Contact Dr. Julie Griffin

About Dr. Julie Griffin

Dr. Griffin uses an integrative psychodynamic approach to psychotherapy in order to help clients better understand themselves within their life context. She specializes in healing relationships, both through couples counseling and individual therapy.

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