Good Grief: A Guide to Healthy Healing

What is Grief?

Grief is an emotional response to a loss. Grief can take the form of many different emotions and have significant mental and physical impact on those suffering from it. 

Common emotional reactions to loss include sadness, anger, despair, guilt, confusion, and relief. While these are common emotional reactions to loss, these are not exclusive signs of grief. Everyone processes grief differently and it can affect those suffering from it at different times. Physical cues associated with grief include not being able to sleep, changes in appetite or behavior, addiction, etc.

What Causes Grief?

  • Death of a loved one, including pets
  • Changes in your health or the health of a loved one
  • Divorce or changes in a relationship, including friendships
  • Losing a job or changes in financial security
  • Changes in lifestyle (retirement/moving)

Grief is commonly experienced through five different stages: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages have varying lengths for everyone. Some may experience them in a different order or even skip over one completely. The roadmap to grieving is never clear. This makes it extremely important to remember the many myths related to grief.

Healthy healing is possible.

When dealing with loss, the most productive thing you can do is focus on the fact that in this very moment you are alive. You are breathing in and out as you read this. The best thing you can do is prioritize your own health and wellbeing .

Myths surrounding grief:

  • You have to “be strong” to overcome grief
  • Each day is just as hard as the last
  • It becomes easier every day
  • Not crying means you don’t care
  • At some point, you have been grieving “too long”
  • Moving on means forgetting

Facts to be mindful of:

  • Everyone processes grief in their own way
  • Give yourself permission to be present with your emotions
  • It is ‘normal’ to experience a range of emotions surrounding loss
  • Grief doesn’t have a timeline, it can ebb and flow
  • No one can tell you how to feel or process your emotions
  • Grieving a loss means that you still can experience fun, joy, and happiness

Therapy for grief, or grief counseling, is designed to help you process and cope with a loss.  Seeking therapy will provide you with support and resources to process your experience. Each mental health professional has their own strengths and there are a variety of counseling techniques that your therapist can use to guide you through your emotions.

During times of pain and suffering, it is important to prioritize your self-care. Be cognizant of your behavior, mood, and thoughts. If you find that you have to find ways to forget or avoid thinking about your grief, you are not processing your loss in a healthy way. Therapy is a safe, responsible way to focus your energy on your personal growth and improving your quality of life.

Unhealthy ways of grieving:

  • Avoiding spending time with others
  • Finding ways to stay ‘busy’ or avoid your emotions
  • Having harmful or suicidal thoughts
  • Stopping daily routines
  • Substance abuse and/or addictive behaviors
  • Experiencing ongoing symptoms of distress

Are you or a loved one struggling with grief? At Integrative Counseling Services, we have licensed mental health professionals that offer one-on-one, personalized grief counseling services and resources throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

If you believe Integrative Counseling Services can help you or a loved one, or if you or your organization wish to learn more about our offerings, please reach out to our main office at 570-955-5479.

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