Grief is a natural psychological and physiological reaction to loss. It is not a mental illness, but rather a healthy and understandable reaction to losing someone or something very important to us. Mourning is the external expression of that grief.
Many people associate the emotion of grief with deep sadness or sorrow, but grief presents with a wide variety of emotions, including anger and even guilt. Unlike other emotions, grief is not thought of as fleeting. Many believe that grief does not end, but that over time our experiences in life grow bigger and so the grief no longer feels so overwhelming.
Stages of Grief
In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist who worked with terminally ill patients, published the book On Death and Dying, which introduced the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She noticed these stages in those who were dying, not in those who were grieving. Over time, though, these stages have become associated with both. There is a misperception that a person will go through these stages only one time and in order. In reality, everyone is different and can go through these stages more than once and in any uniquely personal order. Today, there are believed to be six stages of grief, which now includes finding meaning. David Kessler, often thought of as Kübler-Ross’s protégé, coined this term after realizing there was so much more to grief after acceptance.
“There is some misperception that a person will go through these stages one time and in order. In reality, everyone is different and can go through these stages more than once and in any uniquely personal order.”
Types of Grief
It may surprise you that there are many types of grief outside of what is considered to be “normal” grief; that is, where a person experiences significant pain but is able to move toward acceptance more seamlessly. Some of the more common types of grief include anticipatory grief, where a loved one is terminally ill or injured but still alive; cumulative grief, where a person experiences multiple deaths over a shorter period of time; collective grief, where loss is experienced by a group of people; disenfranchised grief, where a person is grieving but society does not recognize their grief or consider its cause worthy of grieving; and finally, traumatic grief, where a loved one’s death is perceived as horrifying, violent, or traumatic. Understanding the type of grief you are experiencing can help normalize it and provide a guide to healing.
Losing a beloved animal can be so significant. This type of grief is often minimized, even by the person grieving. But losing an animal leaves a hole inside just as other types of grief do. We offer an accepting and understanding place for you to process through such a difficult loss.
Grief therapy can take many forms. Oftentimes it is as simple as offering a safe place to unfold your grief. It allows you to share about your loved one without anyone trying to fix a loss that cannot be fixed. Because grief is natural, in order to heal or to begin functioning again all we need to do is mourn—to allow the internal grief to be experienced externally and to be witnessed.
Other times, in cases where you are stuck in your grief or are experiencing persistent or complex bereavement, where you are not able to function, we are able to utilize different tools and therapy modalities to help you move forward without letting go of your loved one or beloved pet. The gold standard for prolonged grief is psychotherapy. This is where you discuss your feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. The most common modality used is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you to challenge maladaptive thoughts, thus changing your behaviors and outcomes.
“Little by little, we let go of loss, but never of love.”