Over the course of your lifetime, you will encounter change, experience loss, and go through periods where you need to grieve. While painful experiences are inevitable and a normal part of living, sometimes the pain of change and loss feels unbearable.
Sometimes an entirely new reality comes with grief and loss involving a terminal or chronic disease diagnosis, the death or suicide of someone important to you, a stillbirth, a miscarriage, traumatic events, divorce, infidelity, or disabling injury.
Even when change or loss involves a choice you made or comes as a natural part of aging, they can still feel quite challenging (e.g., blending a family, relocating, taking a new job, empty-nesting, or entering retirement).
To determine if you need extra support or guidance while you weather a change or grieve a loss, ask yourself the following:
- Have I somehow lost my way in navigating this change or loss? Am I clear on my purpose, despite this new reality?
- Do I feel like a part of me is lost? Do I feel alone or like no one else is impacted the same as me?
- Am I reliving the loss or regretting the change? Does my mind seem preoccupied with the loss or change?
- Do I have unrelenting resentment or regret?
- Has it become hard for me to do things that I used to be able to do? Do I care less about doing things that used to be important to me?
- Am I isolating myself or withdrawing in ways that are interfering with me moving forward? Do I care about moving forward?
- Am I overwhelmed and confused?
- Do I feel desperate to end my own suffering?
- Am I surprised at how I see myself behaving? Am I way off from where I want to be in how I treat myself, others, and the world around me?
- Am I afraid of what this change means for me? Am I avoiding the new reality?
- Am I having difficulty believing or accepting this new reality?
Of course, answering YES to some of these questions is a normal part of grief, particularly early on and especially if the circumstances are complicated or traumatic. Also, if you typically dislike or struggle with change, you may answer YES to some of these.
The bottom line is that while grieving loss and change is normal and alerts us to slow down and heal, sometimes we can get “stuck” in our grief. Even when change is by choice, it’s possible for it to also bring uncomfortable, difficult, or unnatural aspects that are hard to navigate.
How I help with grief, loss, and change
I developed my approach to grief, loss, and change by drawing on my extensive training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and my time working in hospice using the companioning model developed by Dr. Alan Wolfelt.
We work through your grief, loss, and change as companions on a very important journey. Despite the common perception that there are distinct stages of grief and loss, the path forward isn’t always clear. There will be obstacles and barriers that we encounter along the way when your mind or heart is overwhelmed with negative self-talk, harsh judgment, unhelpful predictions about what lies ahead, pain, fear, regret, and anger. During these times, you will likely feel pulled off track, like you’re heading away from what matters most to you. There may be times along the way where you feel like giving up or you just aren’t very motivated to keep going. And there may be times when you feel lost.
There is a popular saying: “the only way through grief is through it”. Being a professional grief worker and a survivor of loss to suicide, I am committed to working together to equip you with helpful “tools” for you to carry and use along the way. You’ll likely spend only an hour with me each week, so it is important that you have a clear understanding of how to care for yourself outside of my office in your new reality.
Below are some of the “tools” we’ll use for your grief, loss, and change recovery:
- Concrete skills in self-compassion and acceptance. Often with grief, loss, and change, we deny or avoid the most painful parts. I will teach you how to be with your pain and suffering in a different way. I will guide you in exercises that help you feel what it is like to drop the struggle with your experience, and instead, learn how to make room for it, allow it to be there, and even respond to it with the care and kindness that it and you deserve
- Ways for you to respond differently to your painful thoughts. Typically, as we move through loss and change, we have thoughts, images and memories that come to mind as we recall what was lost or changed, or as we imagine our life in the future. You may not have a choice in the thoughts that show up, particularly during times of distress, but you do have a choice in how you respond and what you do when those unhelpful thoughts are with you. These skills for working with thoughts will help you recognize when thoughts pull you off track from healing and growth, and they will empower you to respond in ways that are more helpful to you.
- A “values compass” to guide you when you feel like you’re: losing your way, drifting off track, facing a barrier, or close to giving up. We will work together to determine what matters most to you, particularly while you are grieving change and loss. Humans tend to do better when our actions are linked to something that matters to us. We will identify actions, big and small, that are based on the things that you want to be about, so when you start being pushed around by the pain, fear, sadness, grief, or regret, you will know what helps you get back on track and heading in the direction of healing, recovery, and growth.
No one lives a pain-free life. Sadly, all of us lose things and people we care about. We grow older and life continues to change. Some losses and changes are harder than others. When you find yourself struggling with grief, loss, or change, it would be my honor to help you heal, grow, and adjust to your new reality. I encourage you to reach out and see how I may help.