Grief: Will Therapy Help? 

Tears flow as a woman grieves a loss. Learn how to cope

Grief is an extremely personal process. For some, grief is primarily experienced in emotions such as sadness, regret, guilt and worry about the future. For others, grief is experienced physically and could include such things as loss of appetite, fatigue, heaviness in the chest, headaches, and numbness. Grief can also be experienced as an obsession with past memories. For many, grief can be a combination of these elements, and how someone grieves might also be informed by an individual’s culture and/or religion.  

So what is grief? The American Psychological Assocation (APA) defines grief as, “the anguish experienced after a significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person.” Grief is a natural response to a major loss in a person’s life. Feelings of loss can also accompany such significant life events as a divorce, an unexpected departure from a job or career, and the ending of good health and/or physical abilities to name a few. Grief can last anywhere from 6 months to two years and it often improves with time.  

For many, when they hear the word grief, they immediately think of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. Dr. Kubler-Ross published On Death and Dying in 1969 after she interviewed over 200 individuals with terminal illness. From these interviews, Dr. Kubler-Ross observed commonalities across the experience of facing death and the five stages of grief emerged. These stages include:   

  • Denial: In this stage, the individual is having trouble accepting that the loss is real. The individual is in shock and feels the world around him/her is meaningless. Embracing a denial reaction is meant to help the individual survive the loss.  
  • Anger: Anger can be a precursor to many different emotions that the individual will get to after they get through the anger. Anger is also an energizing emotion that can give the grieving person a sense of structure to the overwhelm that can accompany a devastating loss. Anger can be a go to emotional reaction or directed at someone, at an aspect related to the loss, at God, at an infinite number of things.  
  • Bargaining: In this stage, there is hope that the loss could be avoided through an imagined agreement. “Please God, if only you could save my wife from breast cancer. I promise I will never take her for granted again and I promise to go to church every weekend.” The purpose of these negotiations is to prevent the feelings of loss. 
  • Depression: In this stage, the feelings of grief intensify and significant sadness sets in. The individual might wonder if there is a point to going on without their loved one. An individual might become withdrawn and decline social support and interactions. 
  • Acceptance: This stage is characterized by acceptance that the loved one is gone and that the new reality without the loved one is here to stay. It does not mean that the grieving individual is okay with the loss. Emotional pain is still present in this stage, but the individual must try to live with their new reality.  

It is important to note that the development of these stages was not based on interviews with surviving loved ones. Not everyone in grief will go through each of these stages and if a person does go through similar grief stages, they may not happen in order outlined above. For some, they may progress on to a different stage of grief only to return to the previous stage later in time.  

Here are a few practical suggestions that could be of benefit while you go through the grieving process:  

  1. It’s okay to feel your feelings. A whole range of emotions accompany grieving and it is natural to feel these emotions. Try to avoid cutting yourself off from your emotions with keeping yourself busy and other forms of distraction. For some, talking about memories of their loved one with those that knew him or her help to allow yourself to feel the feelings, both good and bad, attached to these memories. Another way of embracing your feelings could come with journaling. If experiencing your emotions feels like it is too much to take on by yourself, you could seek additional support from a therapist who specializes in grief counseling.  
  2. Try to avoid isolating yourself. Receivng support and care from friends and family can help to give you a sense of normalcy and that not everything is lost with the passing of your loved one. Social support also gives you an outlet to talk about the memories and moments of your loved that can help you to feel your feelings.  
  3. Give yourself a sense of normalcy by sticking to a routine. Life can feel out of control while you are grieving. Developing a daily routine can help to give you back some of the predictability that you previously knew. Your routine could involve specific times to being your day, take a shower, go for a walk, make meals, etc.  
  4. Be sure to take care of yourself. Try not to skip meals and give yourself the nourishment your mind and body need. If sleeping through the night is difficult while you are grieving, it is okay to take naps to give yourself those additional hours of sleep. Light to moderate exercise is also of benefit.   

While everyone’s experience with grief is unique, giving yourself time to grieve and being patient with yourself are often key to effective grief coping. If after giving yourself time to grieve you find that grief is interfering with your ability to go to work, keep up with your household responsibilities, disrupting your social interactions and/or significantly interfering with other aspects of your life on a consistent basis, it may be time to seek individual therapy from a therapist who specializes in grief.  

If you are struggling with grief, give us a call. We can help.  call us at 936-524-7523 or go to our website at