Grief and Loss

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Grief is a form of love and, as such, can be the strongest emotions a person can experience. Though loss can be traumatic, grief is not a trauma syndrome. Nor is grief a one year series of emotional stages. Normal grief is a painful but healthy process of adaptation during which effort must be made to maintain mental and physical health.

Certainly, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance may well be some of the emotions that are triggered after a loss, but they are accompanied with many other emotions as well. Grief encompasses many other painful feelings, such as fear, guilt, regret, remorse, longing and nostalgia. Some individuals may even feel relief, depending on the circumstances. Others may feel happiness for their loved ones and anticipation of being reunited in the afterlife. Sometimes conflicting emotions are felt at the same time.

The death of a loved one is an obvious loss that triggers grief, but less obvious losses can occur as well. A change in a relationship due to breakup or relocation can also be a significant loss. Loss of a pet, pregnancy, job, home, health, sentimental item, future plan, or any significant loss can result in a need to grieve.

Grieving brings about adaptation. In general, the more adaptation one must to because of the loss, the more intense the grieving process will be. The impact the loss will have on the grief response depends on the quality of the relationship, timing, context, circumstances and consequences. Severity of the grief response is also influenced by personal factors, such as spiritual beliefs, social support, resources and coping habits.

Coping With Grief And Loss

Grief is an ongoing journey of emotions, reflection, coping behaviors, adaptation and growth. Overwhelming and confusing feelings are very painful at times and other stressors may make these feelings even more intense. An effort to maintain healthy coping habits must be made, including sleep, exercise, nutrition and time with supportive others. Maintaining healthy coping habits facilitates adaptation, acceptance, and personal growth.

Grieving individuals can use other strategies in addition to maintaining health that can lead to a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life, according to the American Psychological Association. Some such strategies include remembering and celebrating who or what was lost, verbalizing feelings about the loss, and helping others with the loss.

Those who lack healthy coping habits can fall into patterns of quick fixes and behaviors that are unhealthy, such as isolation, self-pity, overeating, drinking alcohol or using drugs. These unhealthy ways of coping only make things worse. Unhealthy habits only prolong the grieving process and lead to complicated grief.

Complicated Grief

Prolonged grief, also referred to as unresolved, complicated or traumatic grief, is referred to in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition as “persistent complex bereavement disorder” or “other specified trauma- and stressor- related disorder.”

Getting Help For Complicated Grief

Complicated grief can result from the use unhealthy coping habits or the lack of use of healthy coping habits. Some warning signs of complicated grief that may require treatment include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or warning signs
  • Inability to sleep, exercise, prepared healthy meals
  • Inability to maintain school, work and family responsibilities
  • Not feeling better over time
  • Substance use or addiction

When grief is overwhelming and debilitating for a prolonged period of time or accompanied by substance use or suicidal thoughts, treatment is likely required. Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective for complicated grief and psychotropic medication when depressive symptoms are present.

Behavioral disorders rooted in unresolved or complicated grief are common. Yet symptoms often go unrecognized until they become very severe, which may be many years after the loss occurred. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the above warning signs or having difficulty functioning, prompt intervention and treatment can help prevent further tragedy. Call your healthcare provider or our 24/7 helpline today.

About Treatment At Sovereign Health Of Arizona

Sovereign Health of Arizona is a leader in the treatment of women struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders. Sometimes mental or substance use disorders cannot be overcome until complicated grief is addressed. Our treatment specialists provide comprehensive assessments and evidence-based therapy to help meet the needs and goals of each individual patient. Sovereign Health’s women’s center accepts most major health insurance plans and offers financing through MyTreatmentLender. To find out more about our trauma treatment programs and grief counselling for women or any of our specialized services, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.

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