Everyday Concerns, Future Consequences Part 1: Grief and Loss

Posted on 11/19/10 by erynwicker

For this week and the next three, I and the Perspectives column will be exploring some issues or themes that we encounter in our everyday lives. These areas, if left unattended, pushed aside, or never dealt with, can become considerably larger and unmanageable concerns with far-reaching impact.

The everyday concerns/topics that I will be highlighting each week are:

š Grief/loss – we tend to commonly associate certain losses with feelings of grief such as the death of someone close to us; however, I think that we sometimes forget to allow ourselves to truly feel and grieve other subtle or less obvious types of losses. Not healing from the loss of a friendship or pet or job can impact our future selves as well, especially if it prevents us from moving forward.

š Self-esteem – we all have moments of low self esteem, of putting ourselves down in tough situations or engaging in negative self-talk. But chronically low self-esteem and the constant repeating of negative thoughts and feelings to ourselves can have extensive impact and consequences to our future concepts of self.

š Communication – wouldn’t it be nice if we always said what we meant, with the right tone and delivery, and it was always interpreted in the right way by the right people. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen and our verbal and non-verbal information can be misconstrued and misperceived. Noticing warning signs and cues that we have difficulty communicating is reason to make changes and improve our style, as these communication problems can create unhealthy or maladaptive patterns that can be become deep-rooted, passed along to children, or prevent a relationship from thriving.

š Resentment – I’m sure we have all been known to hold onto certain feelings about certain people to do with certain situations. But sometimes these unexpressed, buried feelings of grudge, anger, or hurt can build up and worsen over time. These resentments then prevent us from growing, healing, forgiving, and moving on, and can affect our physical, intellectual, and emotional health.

Grief is a normal and natural reaction to a loss of any kind. This also allows then that any feeling associated with the loss is also natural and normal for the griever. Some common feelings within normal grief reactions include: numbness, irritableness or anger, frustration or being misunderstood, anxiousness or nervousness, guilt or remorse, inability to focus or concentrate, feeling like you’re ‘going crazy’, and loneliness. Grief has also been described as the conflicted feelings around the change or ending of a familiar pattern of behaviours. This definition is obviously more encompassing regarding acknowledging that grief can be associated with other losses besides death.

Subtle or less noticeable losses can also cause strong feelings of grief, even though those around you may not know the full extent of your feelings. These losses can include trauma and stress, as well as the changes in our lives.

Some of the less obvious losses that we also need to recognize and allow ourselves to grieve include:

  • š Relationship break up
  • š Loss of a friendship
  • š Loss of health through illness
  • š Death of a pet
  • š Move to a new home
  • š Loss of physical ability
  • š Graduation from school
  • š Leaving home
  • š Loss of job, change of job
  • š Separation and/or divorce
  • š Loss of mental capacity/ability
  • š Loss of financial security
  • š Puberty or at the other end, moving into non-child bearing years

We need to recognize that each loss is significant for the person experiencing it, and that the length of the grief process varies from individual to individual. Diminishing or minimizing one person’s loss because we wouldn’t feel it in the same way only pushes the person’s grief further inside where it could become unresolved. Additionally, we then run the risk of not identifying our own subtle losses when we might experience them.

There is also no one right way to recover from any type of loss. Painful times require patience as we experience the unique feelings and reactions to the loss. Drawing on past ways of coping in difficult times may provide some clue as to how to treat ourselves this time as each person has coping skills that fit with their lifestyle and personality. Finding, creating, and engaging in healthy and helpful ways of coping is important in resolving a loss – although our feelings do not magically disappear, it allows for a move forward in the healing process.

Below are some common coping skills – let this list be a jumping off point to help generate ideas about how to manage your own grief.

  • š Give yourself permission to feel the grief
  • š Seek support either via counselling, family, friends, or a support group
  • š Exercise, sleep, and eat well
  • š Engage in social activities
  • š Relax, listen to music, and participate in other means of self-care
  • š Be patient with yourself
  • š Acknowledge your fluctuating feelings such as wanting time alone and then closeness

If you or someone you know is struggling to heal from a loss or wants to learn how to integrate a loss into their life please contact a helping professional such as a registered psychologist or clinical counsellor.

Some resources that might provide further information and/or assistance are: The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses by J. James & R. Friedman and Good Grief by G. E. Westberg.