The Journey of Healing When You’ve Lost a Loved One
Let’s talk about healing from the loss of a loved one…
There is no roadmap for healing, no statute of limitations on grief. The journey of a broken heart is a highly variable and individual one. On some occasions, the natural medicine of time and a good support system will be sufficient, in others it will not.
Different variables will affect how you grieve including your relationship to the deceased, how they died, current life circumstances, and even your age and gender. So how can you tell when your personal mourning process has exceeded what is considered a typical and common reaction to a painful loss and escalated to a clinical condition that may necessitate treatment?
There are numerous types of bereavement and grief accepted by the mental health community. These can include anticipatory grief as when the loss is foretold like with long term illness, delayed grief when symptoms first arise far beyond the actual loss, cumulative grief which is the compound experience of multiple losses, traumatic grief when the death involves unexpected or violent circumstances, masked grief when the individual becomes stuck in the state of denial and no identifiable grief symptoms emerge, and many more.
There are two different types of grief…
First, it is important to define what is considered a “normal” grief reaction. At first, this term can seem offensive as the devastation experienced from the tragic loss of a loved one feels anything but normal. But there are typical reactions that can be expected from nearly everyone who has a loss in their lives. These presentations include a longing for your loved one, tearfulness, dreams of the departed, anger, sadness, fatigue, hopelessness, insomnia, confusion, loss of appetite, even transient hallucinatory experiences (hearing their voice, seeing them out of the corner of your eye).
As grief reactions vary so widely between individuals, it is difficult to assign a cookie-cutter definition of grief, but the aforementioned symptoms are considered well within the scope of what is to be expected from one who has lost someone dear to them.
The term used for mourning that has surpassed the above scope of experiences is “Complicated Grief.” Complicated grief emotions tend to be debilitating, long-lasting, and significantly impair your ability to function. This type of anguish includes difficulty focusing on anything else besides the loss, the feeling that life is not worth living without your loved one, believe that you could have prevented the death or in some way caused it, inability to think back upon positive experiences with your loved one, and becoming preoccupied with the wish that you had died alongside them.
It is important to remember that within the first few weeks or months after the loss, the symptoms of normal grief and complicated grief can be remarkably similar. The distinction comes with the evolution and duration of the reaction. The normal grief experience usually starts to fade or reduce overtime while complicated grief becomes an unending, intensified state of being that disallows healing. It is also imperative to acknowledge that the grieving process can both be exacerbated by preexisting depressive or anxious conditions and create further irritation of these states if they were already present which will confound the management of both.
Grief is a journey… just as the sun rises and the world moves forward… so will you.
These expectations and hopes for a new day will stir in you, memories of the past that will propel you towards your future. This understanding is what your lost loved one would want for you and will forever be part of the healing process.
The job of a grief therapist is to walk this journey with you, to keep you focused on this new day ahead, and all the joy it will bring. Out of the ashes, you will rise to navigate the uncharted waters of mourning. You will have setbacks but always move forward to that new day awaiting.
Having a safe place with a person dedicated to your support and recovery can assist you in easing the pain you are feeling and rediscovering the purpose of your life.
You are not alone… We see you. We are inspired by you. Your courage, strength, and resilience are incredible.
If you’re in need of a Licensed Therapist or Certified First Responder Counselor specially trained to walk beside you on your path of healing, we encourage you to reach out. On behalf of our entire team at Bayview Therapy, we are here to help.
For more information about our services for those struggling with PTSD/Trauma, Grief and Loss, or specifically for First Responders, visit our website. We have offices in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, and Plantation (coming soon). We also provide online counseling through our secure telehealth platform across the state of Florida.