Grief and Loss
Whether you're coping with the death of a loved one or experiencing symptoms of anticipatory grief, coping with loss can be so painful. The idea of moving forward may seem overwhelming. You might be grappling with intense feelings of sadness, fear, guilt, and even some relief. While all grief is unique, grieving itself is a normal process, and it isn't just limited to losing someone you love. You can experience grief after any profound loss, and such losses may include the end of a relationship, navigating a significant life transition, or considering the possibility of "what could have been."
Therapy after a Loved One's Death
Whether the loss happened a few days ago or many years ago, the emotions after losing a loved one can be incredibly intense. You may be surprised by how sad, angry, or afraid you feel. You might worry that you'll never move on.
There is no picture of normal grief, but many people find that anchoring themselves with support is the most important part of the healing process. This support can come in the form of support groups, connecting with close-knit family members, and seeking professional guidance.
Therapy for Inhibited/Delayed Grief
Inhibited grief can happen when you subconsciously avoid grieving a loss. Delayed grief happens when you start the grieving process many months or years after your loss. Both types of grief are common, although they're often misunderstood.
You might be experiencing such grief symptoms if you:
primarily focus on being "the strong one" in the family
experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pains, or sleep issues even though you emotionally "feel okay"
feel like you're supposed to move on
fear that allowing yourself to grieve means you will fall apart
Inhibited or delayed grief often feels overwhelming and scary. You might not know how to cope with these emotions or talk about them to others. You may feel embarrassed to be having such an "intense reaction" after such a long time after the loss. Therapy can offer you a roadmap for better understanding and coping with your emotions.
Therapy for Anticipatory Grief
We often associate grief as a process people undergo after loss, but many people experience profound grief symptoms when they anticipate an impending loss. For example, you may grieve a difficult medical diagnosis or when a loved one's condition has been deemed a terminal illness. You might also grieve a future that will no longer exist. With anticipatory grief, you may be trying to wrap your head around the impending death and prepare yourself emotionally to say goodbye. This sense of upcoming loss naturally triggers immense anxiety and sadness. Such grief can also highlight discomfort about your own death.
Some signs of anticipatory grieving include:
intensified sadness and depression symptoms
fear of being able to cope after the loss
withdrawal from the dying person because you're "preparing" to say goodbye
feeling guilt associated with wanting your loved one to die (to be free from pain)
Anticipatory grief can be just as painful as the grief after the loss itself. In some cases, it may be even more difficult, especially if you're involved with caregiving or planning other logistical aspects. While anticipatory grief often coincides with death, it can also occur when preparing for a non-death loss, like quitting a job, breaking up with a partner, or having your children leave home.
Therapy for Disenfranchised Grief
Disenfranchised grief can happen when you mourn the loss of an experience that you can't openly or publicly acknowledge. This can make the grieving process even more complex and painful. You may feel ashamed or alone in how you feel, and that can significantly impact your emotional well-being.
Some common types of disenfranchised include:
grieving someone who died from suicide or overdose (which may be stigmatized)
grieving someone whom you "shouldn't" have loved (i.e. an affair partner)
grieving a pet (as some people may assume the loss is "less real" than that of a human)
grieving someone you can't remember (a grandparent who died when you were a very small child)
grieving after an abortion
grieving the loss of something you never had (a child, partner, certain type of job or lifestyle)
The feelings associated with disenfranchised grief are just as valid as the feelings of any other conventional grief. The difference is that you may experience more emotional distress because you don't know where to turn to with those feelings, and you may find that even well-intentioned friends or family members don't understand what you're experiencing.
Professional Support for Grief and Loss in Northwest Arkansas
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. We all experience death in this lifetime, and grieving is not a sign of clinical distress. That said, seeking support during this vulnerable time can help you feel connected. Therapy is not about stopping or fixing emotions. It's about harnessing the many emotions associated with a loss and healing in response to this change. My practice serves the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers-Bentonville metropolitan area and the surrounding areas of Northwest Arkansas. I am here to walk with you on this path, no matter how scary or painful it may feel.