To many people, the work "grief" connotes the aftermath of loss of a loved one through death. However, the word actually covers our response to emotional loss of any kind. One study has identified 43 different losses that can trigger a grief reaction. Besides the obvious losses of death, divorce or break-up of a relationship, illness, job loss, etc., it can be useful to remember that any life change involves a loss of some sort, and the significance of each loss is unique and personal to the individual experiencing the change.
Our culture has not taught us to deal effectively with emotional loss. We learn myths such as "Time heals all wounds". "You need to be alone to deal with this." "Be strong for others." "Don't feel bad." "Keep busy." "Replace the loss." "You need to move on", among others.
These messages are not helpful and can actually compound the pain of the original loss. Grief is normal and natural and involves a wide range of emotions, which will be individual and unique to each person. The work of grieving involves discovering and expressing undelivered communications and feelings toward the relationship or situation that has been lost. This is best accomplished in an environment of safety and trust, with a series of steps designed to help the griever accomplish this task.
Grief counselors note that most, if not all, relationship problems as well as emotional problems can be traced to unresolved grief. We have all experienced displaced emotions - for example, the person who has had a bad day at work and "takes it out on" their family at home. Many of us have stored unexpressed emotions of grief, perhaps for years or even decades, which may be activated under stress and displaced onto our current relationships.
Additionally, research into the "mind-body connection" is uncovering evidence that stored emotions are related to physical symptoms of distress and even illness. Learning to identify and express these "stuffed" reactions to loss can promote physical well-being, as well as increase ability to cope with daily life.
Wanda Beierle, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Valley Grief Recovery and Counseling Center, is certified by the Grief Recovery Institute to facilitate the ten week Grief Recovery® workshop. Additionally, Wanda works individually with clients to incorporate awareness of grief issues in therapy. Her approach is client-centered and based on the belief that safety, trust and empathy are major factors in healing.