Grief, Loss, and Transition
“Grief is the normal process of natural emotions and feelings which are uniquely experienced after any loss of any relationship.” – Giunta
We experience grief and mourning over all losses – tangible and intangible.
Some of the most difficult losses can be intangible –
changes in life circumstances, relationships, etc.
All losses are important and need to be mourned.
Make a list of the losses in your life – both tangible and intangible. For each tangible loss, identify the intangible losses that result from it.
Tangible Loss: — Intangible Loss:
- moving from your home a secure place, the place of your memories, etc.
Whether the loss is tangible or intangible we need to grieve that. Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross Model, 1969)
If you are not permitted to grieve, no matter what the loss – be it large or small in the eyes of the world – you will develop chronic grief. You’ll get stuck in the process and never move forward. The result will leave you alive physically, but quite possibly dead emotionally and spiritually.
“No, this can’t be.” “This just isn’t happening.” Denial is often functional as it helps cushion the impact of the loss.
- Anger and Rage
“This isn’t fair.” “Why me?” Often people blame God or other people (doctors, parents, etc.) during this stage.
“If only I would have been there.” “If only I wouldn’t have gotten so angry” “If only they wouldn’t have been so immature…” People attempt to strike bargains to seek to regain all or part of the loss.
“This is really true, and its really sad.” People allow the reality of the loss and sadness to sink in. They feel it.
“Its really true. I get to keep going and growing.” People accept the loss and focus more on ways of coping with the loss. At this stage people have hope of putting their life back together, finding a “normal” pace of life, while acknowledging the loss has happened.
Physical Effects of Grief/Depression:
– Loss of appetite
– Dehydration, aches and pains
– Nightmares and delusions
Emotional Effects of Grief/Depression:
– Feeling loss of control
– Feeling nothing at all
– Feeling a need for closure
– Feeling depression from emotional overload
Cognitive Effects of Grief/Depression:
– Inability to articulate thoughts
– Memory lapses and repetition
– Flashbacks and fixations
Signs of Chronic Grief:
Behavioral: self-medication, overindulgence in positive behaviors, overworking
Physical: sleeplessness that persists long after the event, frequent episodes of seeing and hearing things that are not there, frequent episodes of confusion or bewilderment that becomes detrimental to your welfare
Emotional: isolation – physical and emotional withdrawal
What are my emotions telling me now?
Emotions of Loss: Possibilities for these emotions:
Fear Fear can help us identify our need for safety or security
Loneliness Loneliness can help us recognize our need for God and others
Guilt Guilt can lead us to acknowledge our imperfections
Anger Anger can help us recognize what is wrong and what we need
The way out of grief is by stepping into it. It is hard but it is the only way.
Five desires for recovery:
· I will accept the reality of my loss.
· I will give myself permission to experience the grief.
· I need to adjust to my new environment that is without the thing I am grieving.
· I want to reinvest emotional energy.
· I want to learn how to redefine my roles and relationships.
- Feeling better
- Reclaiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances reclaiming you
- Finding new meaning for living, without the fear of future abandonment
- Being able to enjoy fond memories without painful feelings of loss, guilt, and remorse
- Acknowledging that it is OK to feel bad from time to time and to talk about those feelings
- Being able to forgive others when they say or do things that are painful
- Realizing your ability to talk about your loss or your experience helps others coping with their loss
- A return to the desire to be involved in life again and connect with people in your life
- A renewal of faith in God and a rebirth of hope in your life
Recovery is not a linear process – it is fluid and unpredictable. You may experience the various stages of grief, but not in a sequential fashion. You may bounce around between different feelings. It is okay to feel like you are moving backwards some days. Don’t put yourself on a timeline for recovery – allow God to be with you and hold you in every part of the process.
You can listen to Elisabeth’s talk on this topic HERE.
About the author
Dr. Elisabeth Suarez is the Director of Clinical Training - Counseling for Argosy University - Denver. She trains and supervises both masters and doctoral students in their field experience. Previously, she taught PhD students at Regent University and masters students at Denver Seminary. Her internship and first counseling job were with an organization that had a cross-cultural worker care division, where she was exposed to people heading overseas as well as returning for home assignment. Elisabeth has traveled overseas extensively and lived in Mexico for four months. Elisabeth appreciates the privilege of listening to the stories and experiences of the women the Father brings into her path. She is a licensed professional counselor, and a nationally certified counselor.View all articles by: Elisabeth Suarez
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