All of us experience grief in one form or another multiple times in our lives. It may be the pain of leaving home for the first time in our life, or the loss of a beloved pet, the ending of an important relationship, or a severe disappointment. It may be more intense, such as the loss of a parent or beloved relative or friend, a serious illness or injury, or another significant disappointment.
At the time, the grief may feel overwhelming and insurmountable, and that is very normal and understandable, even though it seems like we can never get through it.
Counseling can help us understand what we are feeling, and how we can move on, gradually, and with support from friends, family, and often a supportive relationship with a counselor who can understand, listen, and help guide us through the incredible pain of grieving.
In the Counseling and Wellness Center, our staff are trained in working with grief and helping students understand, process, and cope with the pain of loss, whatever its cause. Northing can take away the loss, but we can often come to understand it better and recognize that we can move on with our lives, growing from the pain of grieving and through that, understanding ourselves better.
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is a pioneer in our understanding of grief and the stages that often accompany it. She defines the stages this way:
Shock: Feelings of shock are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one. We know it’s going to happen, but not right then, not on that day. People in shock often appear to be behaving normally without a lot of emotion, because the news hasn’t fully sunk in yet.
Denial: Many people experience denial after a bereavement: they know something has happened, but it doesn’t feel real
Anger: It’s perfectly normal to feel anger in times of loss, but often people try to keep this stage of grief hidden.
Bargaining: The bargaining stage is about making promises to yourself or a higher being, asking the universe for a chance to put things right. A bereaved person may seek reason where there is none, and may feel guilty about how they behaved, or feel in some way to blame.
Depression: The jumble of emotions that usually accompanies the grieving process can typically lead to feelings of depression isolation, anxiety and a feeling of dread. Sometimes the suffering seems too much to bear.
Acceptance and hope: Humans, by nature, crave contact, connection and support, and at some stage in the grieving process will want to engage with friends and family again. Acceptance is about realizing you can’t change the circumstances, but that you can gain some control over how you respond.
Processing grief: There is no right or wrong way to grieve – the process is highly individual. In addition, there’s no quick fix; the healing process takes time and varies from person to person. Importantly, there is no “normal” time frame, so be patient with yourself.