BY ROSALIE GREENBERGER, LCSW JJCFS Chicago
When a loved one dies, the effects of loss are as varied as our loved ones. Our feelings of grief are influenced by our relationship with the deceased, the circumstances of death and the timing of the death. At times, grief is manageable. We may be sorry that our loved one has died and feel sadness, but overall, the death will not have a large impact on our lives going forward.
Other times, the death of a loved one will have a profound impact, a life–changing effect on us. We may feel that the wind has been knocked out of us, and/or we may experience an aching emptiness that doesn’t go away. We may have difficulty making sense of what has happened to our loved one and ourselves. Who are we when our loved one has died? We may cry more than we could ever imagine and may retreat from the world around us. Or we may not only feel angry, but find that our anger is impacting others around us. Everything seems out of sync.
When we stop and think about the extent of impact that grief has on us, it is no wonder we are exhausted. Grief affects us totally—socially, emotionally and physically. Our thoughts and feelings are often turned upside down. We may be confused and have difficulty concentrating and we may be sleep deprived or sleep excessively. We suffer from grief attacks, where we begin crying, sometimes for no discernible reason other than we are grieving. We may withdraw and not want to be with others. Sometimes, we become depressed, to the point that we do not want to get out of bed and are unable to continue in a productive way with our usual responsibilities. We can be so irritable that others retreat from us which leaves us feeling more lonely and confused.
Normal grief can encompass all of the above, but there are places to find comfort and understanding. Participating in a group with others who are grieving can be helpful in understanding our grief. In addition, a group experience can help in sorting out the myriad of feelings we are experiencing. We can do so with the support and encouragement of others who understand because they, too, are experiencing their own loss.
Individual, couple or family counseling may be beneficial to those grieving. The best indication that counseling would be helpful is the degree to which the grief is impacting one’s life and to have a conversation with a professional who can help you decide if counseling would be beneficial for you. Some grief is complicated by the suddenness of death and the traumatic nature of the death. How we react is extremely individualized. For some, symptoms of grief are manageable, but for others, their life functioning is negatively impacted. All of this is understandable and not uncommon. In many instances, those grieving can gain understanding of themselves, their emotions and the world around them, helping them to find their “new normal.”
JCFS Chicago's illness, loss and spiritual support offer a full range of grief support services to address issues of grief, through counseling and grief support groups, workshops and classes. As a respected leader in the field, our highly trained and credentialed professionals listen, inform and collaborate with you to enhance your well-being.