Understanding Grief & Loss: How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

After losing a loved one, there comes the chain reaction of gifts, cards, meals, and calls. Friends and family of the bereaved feel the need to help and do something. This solution-focused thinking is helpful initially, however, the grieving are soon forgotten about as everyone else resume their lives.

Ilene Kastel, M.A., LCPCNext Step Founder

Coping with Grief and Loss.

There is a belief that grief is temporary. That there must be a solution to your grief and pain; the sense that we must make ourselves feel better shortly following the funerals, wakes, dinners, and remembrances. We are faced with the impossible task of “moving on”, even though “moving on” seems to impose some kind of illogical time limit.

Why Can’t I Stop Crying. How long does grief last?

As someone who lost loved ones early on in my life, I was at a loss for how to go about the “moving on” part. I was grateful for all those who helped me during this experience, but it seemed like I was a haze of the person I was before and after the losses. This “stuck” feeling seemed to be a new part of my identity, one stuck in the past, not quite ready for the future.

As a clinician, I have found this is a common experience for others and I understand what clients are going through. Clients say that this stuck feeling is almost synonymous with their grief, and this feeling of being unable to move on comes and goes along with other difficult “phases” or emotions of grief. Grief is not just a series of stages but is a part of one’s identity which needs to be shared with those around you. As a counselor, I work with individuals to try and incorporate their grief into this new period of life; one which includes transparency as well as connecting with and working through uncomfortable feelings and changes.

How to Help Someone Grieving?

In the book, “It’s OK that you’re not OK”, Megan Devine redefines how society sees grief and what exactly we can do when faced with our own grief. She explains that, “You don’t need solutions. You don’t need to move on from your grief. You need someone to see your grief, to acknowledge it. You need someone to hold your hands while you stand there in blinking horror, staring at the hole that was your life”.

This powerful statement examines how a lot of times we are at a loss for how we, as a society, handle loss. Rather than just sitting with our pain, we problem solve. There is no solution. Grief is messy, hard, and eventually will become a part of one’s identity. So, let us re-examine how we think about grief, let us sit with our emotions, let us sit with our grief and all that entails. In order to progress further, Devine states, “We have to find ways to show our grief to others, in ways that honor the truth of our experience. We have to be willing to stop diminishing our own pain so that others can be comfortable around us”. So how do we move forward instead of moving on? Possibly with a spin on the “stages of grief” and a more authentic look at what we need as human beings.

Grief is messy, hard, and eventually will become a part of one’s identity. So, let us re-examine how we think about grief, let us sit with our emotions, let us sit with our grief and all that entails.

Ilene Kastel, M.A., LCPCNext Step Founder

What are the “5 Stages of Grief”?

The “stages of grief” are often talked about as a broad guideline to use when confronted with a loss. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, finally acceptance. These emotional experiences are broadly supposed to give some insight into grieving, thus allowing for better understanding and empathy.  While these steps might be helpful as a template of understanding, the grieving experience does not follow a linear progression. As a counselor, I ask my clients what they need during this time in their life? The answers vary, from needing extra support on the anniversary of a loved one’s death or to simply taking time out of one’s day to honor that person in a way that feels good for them.  Others do not know what to do with their grief, to which, we spend time discussing. The point is to ask for help no matter how much time has passed since the death of a loved one.

There's no expiration date on needing help + being compassionate with oneself.

Ilene Kastel, M.A., LCPCNext Step Founder

Loss is loss and when it comes to the grieving process, we might be better served by following a more Buddhist-centric philosophy. This would be one that assumes that life is painful at times, and that there is much to be learned about ourselves and the world around us by not only experiencing but by embracing that pain.