By: Marilyn Soto, LCSW
Grief can come by losing someone to death or even the loss of a relationship, etc. Regardless, losing someone you love can seem like the end of the world. And though there is many different types of loss, this article will mostly focus on losing someone to death.
John Bowlby who started the Attachment Theory says, “when a person recognizes that an ‘object’ (person, possession, job, status) to which he/she is attached no longer exists, grief arises…” Different losses mean different things. It has been said that losing a parent is losing the past, losing a spouse is losing the present and losing a child is losing the future.
Losing someone is hard enough but grief can be complicated when the death is made worse by untimeliness (like the death of a child), when it’s sudden and unanticipated, when it’s thought that the death was preventable, and when there were unresolved issues with the deceased. Also, if there is a lack of support, addiction was involved, isolation, or when it’s a culturally unaccepted death like suicide.
Anticipatory grief is mourning an impending loss, which can be just a painful. However, having that time to say good-bye can be a real blessing. In “The “Five Things of Relationship Completion” by Steve Morris he says saying: I forgive you, Forgive me, Thank you, I love you, and Goodbye are important things to do to not have regret.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says there are 5 stage of grief. They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. A person could experience these in any order. I prefer William Worden’s 4 Tasks of Mourning.
Task I: To Accept the Reality of the Loss
Task II: To Process the Pain of Grief
Task III: To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased
Task IV: To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased while then using the energy used for grieving in a New Life
However, just like trauma, grief can show up at different stages of life.
Sometimes people confuse grief with clinical depression. And in fact some of the symptoms are similar.
In the DSM-V it says grief has symptoms of:
1. Sadness, despair, mourning
2. Fatigue or low energy
4. Loss of appetite
5. Poor sleep
6. Poor concentration
7. Happy and sad memories
8. Mild feelings of guilt
Major Depression symptoms are:
2. Exaggerated guilt
3. Suicidal thoughts
5. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
6. Exaggerated fatigue
Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder (DSM-V condition for further study but that can indicate a need for therapy)
1. Persistent yearning/longing for the deceased
2. Intense sorrow and emotional pain in response to the death
3. Preoccupation with the deceased
4. Preoccupation with the circumstances of the death.
Though many say that there is no time limit to grief, if you are struggling especially with complicated grief, Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder or if your grief symptoms have depressive symptoms it may be time to get some help.
J. William Worden (2009), Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy (Third Edition): A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner. New York: Spring Publishing Co.