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Working through grief

Working through grief

We often think of grief only in relation to the loss of a loved one or a beloved pet.

Significant changes in life like moving, a significant illness, employment changes, loss of a friendship or a divorce are also events to grieve and can be truly painful. Emotions like sadness, loneliness and even anger are common when experiencing these life events. These emotions can take a physical and mental toll.

I have found in my years of health coaching, that it’s obvious and completely acceptable for people to acknowledge the loss of a person who has passed away. It seems to me that those life changes aforementioned are often overlooked as a source of sadness or pain—or are even difficult to acknowledge as something to be grieved. Some minimize these events impact. Some beat themselves up over caring.

I have observed many of my clients navigating their grief over those events without even realizing that they are indeed trying to make their way through the stages that are associated with it.

The “stages” of grief are believed to be part of the process we go through when experiencing a loss or significant life event. Some people feel frustrated with their lack of control over those emotions and how they tend to come and go. Sometimes we carry unrealistic expectations about how to “appropriately” grieve or what sort of timeline there should be as they we go through these experiences.

Five stages have been identified in relation to the grieving process. It’s important to acknowledge there is no timeline, or correct way to go through these stages. Some experience only some of these emotions and some experience the emptions over and over. WebMD provides a list of these emotions:

  • Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, “This isn’t happening.” You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism.
  • Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
  • Depression: Sadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
  • Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.

I believe that grief is like something we orbit. The event or loss is in the center of it all, and we circle around it throughout our lives. At times, our course is far away from the loss, and other times, like anniversaries or special dates, we orbit closer. Obviously, the type of loss we experience will influence these feelings—their frequency and strength, and how we go through these emotions. That is not saying that one loss is weightier or more profound than another. Each experience with grief is unique to the person feeling it, and the event that brought that grief on.

Feelings of grief should improve with time. If you believe you are not grieving appropriately, or that your feelings aren’t improving, WebMD suggests looking for signs that you may need some help adjusting and healing. Watch for symptoms like:

  • difficulty keeping up your normal routine, like going to work and cleaning the house.
  • feelings of depression, thoughts that life isn’t worth living or of harming yourself
  • and any inability to stop blaming yourself.

If you are experiencing these feelings, it is likely time to seek the guidance of a counselor.

Attending counseling or support groups can be helpful in dealing with your emotions. You can learn life skills from counseling or others who have been through similar experiences to help manage the symptoms that accompany the stages and state of grief. Doctors are also able to prescribe medications, if and when appropriate.

It is also wise to be kind to yourself during a time of grief. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to feel and do not put expectations on yourself that you would not of others.

The challenges in our lives are not always easy to navigate. Grief is something that does accompany our lives challenges and although may be difficult, it’s beneficial to both your heart and body to acknowledge its existence and not bury it. Be brave enough to work through the loss or changes, and the emotions so that you can heal and move on.

“The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence; the past is a place of learning, not a place of living.” ~ Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart.

Have Questions?
Rachel Conrad, PBT, CPT, MA, works at CCH Wellness as a Technician, Phlebotomist and Health Coach in Gillette, Wyoming. Campbell County Health's Wellness works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee groups and individuals in Campbell County, Wyoming and beyond. To learn more about Wellness, please visit www.cchwyo.org/services/wellness/ or call 307-688-8051.

Wellness offers the Campbell County, Wyoming community daily blood draws every Monday-Thursday, from 6 am-12 pm, and Friday, from 6-11 am, at 1901 Energy Ct., Suite 125—located behind Wendy's in Gillette, Wyoming. For Wright residents, these screenings are also available at the Wright Clinic, 500 Latigo Drive, Monday-Friday from 8-11 am. No appointment required! Use the My Health Home patient portal and get access to most test results in less than 48 hours. For more information about the blood tests and health screenings available at Wellness, call 307-688-8051 or visit www.cchwyo.org/services/wellness/daily-health-screenings/.