EYC002 Basics of Grief

Sometimes when we have a basic understanding of what we are experiencing, it becomes a little more bearable. Learning and knowing about grief doesn’t make the loss go away or make the pain go away. It simply gives meaning to your current situation. You can then move from trying to explain your experience to discovering methods to attend to yourself. Really using your resources to help you because you can identify the root of the issue you are facing.

I really like William Worden’s Tasks of Grief. It’s simple to understand where as there are only 4 tasks and it really makes sense.   The Tasks of Grief were created with bereavement as the focus – really tasks of mourning. These tasks can be applied to life situations… to all sorts of losses in addition to bereavement. You’ll be able to see yourself in a specific task once you understand it…

Worden’s Tasks of Grief

(summarized from Worden’s 2008 book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy and interpreted for the purpose of life application)

  • Task 1 – Recognizing the loss has occurred.  Realize the loss has actually occurred.
  • Task 2 – Experience the pain of the grief.  Most of my clients are looking for a quick fix to the emotional pain or what is the lesson plan to move on from the emotions. Once this task is better understood, and you begin to better understand your grief indicators, this task becomes more manageable. There is no getting around this task… This task is necessary to move through.
  • Task 3 – Adjust to the environment in which the deceased or the loss is missing.  When we are talking about other life losses, I have easily framed this task as adjusting to your new life. This task is chock full of things to do… it’s a very active task of adjusting. Many clients reference this as feeling like a teenager, you have some knowledge, you are trying things on your own or differently, and your confidence is re-emerging. This is truly a trial and error time frame full of redefining roles, examining relationships, testing your limits, accepting help in a way that is comfortable for you and learning new things. Additionally, This is such an abstract and existential task. In this task, we adjust to a new relationship with what is lost as well… trying to stay connected to what is loss in a meaningful way. Is that spiritual connection for you? Is it a relationship based on memories? Is it a love only you know and you want to share with the world? Your heart has a special spot that will always hold what was lost. It’s important to define a new relationship with that loss as you continue to heal.
  • Task 4 – Withdraw emotional energy from what was lost and invest in new relationships and interests. This may sound harsh and I must tell you, this happens very naturally. This by no means to forget your loved one or forget the life you once lived. Quite the contrary… you honor life and your lost as well as continue living and loving. It simply indicates that you are no longer overwhelmed with the emotional pain and busy-ness of adjusting that you have the energy and interest to pursue life. Some folks will create foundations or become active for a specific cause. I’ve seen clients grow and blossom beautiful tributes to their lost loved ones, run races or scale buildings in honor of causes, and create support networks to continue to help others. This is a beautiful task.

I hope you have been able to see yourself in some of the information I’ve already shared. I encourage you to search him and you will find YouTube videos and many clinicians and hospices talking about his work.

Make sense of Grief in Your Life – Process of Grief

All too often, folks are rushed through their grief by well meaning family, friends or neighbors. It’s important for you to have a framework for your experience to understand that this does not happen all within the 3 bereavement days you get off of work or within the first year of adjusting. Grief is a process.

  • Learn your grief indicators & patterns.  Anniversaries, birthdays, and annual events – one time a year to try out that anticipation, the experience and the feelings after the event. The second year, it’s the second time you get to try it out… and so on. Now some folks are really great at insight and the ability to recognize their own patterns. For example after a couple events, there is somewhat of a pattern: maybe anticipation generally starts a week or so before the event, you cry in the morning or feel nervous up to going to an event and then really sad to come home. Someone who can identify their own patterns and their past coping is working for them will be able to seek support as needed from all sorts of areas in their lives. Sometimes, it’s not that clear. That’s when it’s important to work with a professional that truly understands grief for your given experience. You do not have to struggle alone and there are phenomenal therapists out there to help you adjust and cope.
  • Grief is exhausting.  It takes energy and time and it is by no means a sprint. It is a marathon. It is energy that you are not used to expending and so this is quite uncomfortable or unfamiliar. This can be alarming when you don’t feel like yourself. Because of your loss, you are now changed. There are parts of you that will always be you… and there are parts of you that is profoundly hurting and trying to make sense of the world. It’s important to be aware of your energy, rest as you can, ask for help from those you can rely upon, and seek additional support as you need.
  • Grief is very individually focused. This is not selfish or excluding… What I mean by this is that you are grieving a personal relationship or experience or way of living. This is relationship is unique only to you and what is lost. There are no two that are the same. Experiences may be similar but they are not the same.  ACTIVITY: I encourage you to take time each day to sit with your thoughts and let your thoughts stream. Be present and quiet with your thoughts. You may be amazed at what you discover. This takes a lot of courage… I understand this is a scary suggestion since we have grown so accustomed to the distractions, demands and being constantly entertained. I bet if you give it a shot, you may just begin to connect with your core and begin to understand your hurt, your grief in order to just start to mend your heart.
  • Grief is a Mind-Body-Spirit-Relationship experience.  Grief affects many aspects of our being. Grief is known to be experienced through emotions, though that is only one aspect of our being. It also impacts our mental state, meaning your concentration, your memory, your creativity, why you just walked into a room and can’t recall why on earth you are there… Grief can be experienced physically through frequent colds or headaches, stomachaches, twitches, or overall fatigue. It can affect your spirituality, maybe you feel the need to prove yourself or you question your worth or in conflict with your faith.  Grief can also affect your relationships… you may isolate or lash out at others or maybe you just don’t know how to relate to others now.

Please keep in mind, no two grief’s are the same. And your experience is not up for comparison. Your pain is real and remember, emotions can change moment to moment… It may seem that the emotions are controlling you and you can learn to take your life back. It will take time and mindfulness to heal.

I see people feel better all the time. Emotion and insight is hard work. You will find your new flow. I encourage you to reach out for therapy support if you feel you are stuck or struggling with any of the tasks of grief. The goal is your pain to lessen and you can begin to find moments of joy again in your life. I want you to think about your loved ones, I want you to enjoy your life again.

Visit www.ChartreuseCenter.com for information about counseling services or to contact Julie Blackburn, LCPC, NCC, ATR.

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