Grief

What is grief?

Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people. It can stem from all types of losses (both of things, people, or even what he hoped/expected). Coping with the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s biggest challenges. You may associate grieving with the physical death of a loved one– but any loss can cause grief, including but not limited to:

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • Miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home
  • Life transitions. (Grief after moving away from home, changing jobs, etc.)  

What does grief look like?

Grief presents and looks different for everyone. However, most people experience some forms of the following stages:

  1. Denial: When people first learn of a loss, it’s normal to be in denial. They may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism or a dissociation of the event.
  2. Anger: Once dissociation is gone, people may be faced with the intense pain of their loss. They may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings of hurt later turn into anger. They might direct it toward other people, themselves, or toward life in general. 
  3. Bargaining: During this stage, people dwell on what they could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only I…” They may also try to strike a deal with a higher power or the universe.
  4. Depression: Sadness usually sets in as people start to understand the loss and its effect on their life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. 
  5. Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, people accept the reality of their loss. They accept that it can’t be changed. Although they will still feel grief, they are able to move forward in their life. 

How does the DSM define grief?

When grief becomes intense and unrelenting, it can become what is referred to as persistent complex bereavement disorder or prolonged grief disorder. 

*Please note that this is intended for educational purposes only. For a diagnosis of SUD, you must have a complete history & evaluation completed by a behavioral health specialist.*

Prolonged grief disorder is a disturbance in which, following the death of a partner, parent, child, or other person close to the bereaved, there is persistent and pervasive grief response characterised by longing for the deceased or persistent preoccupation with the deceased accompanied by intense emotional pain (e.g. sadness, guilt, anger, denial, blame, difficulty accepting the death, feeling one has lost a part of one’s self, an inability to experience positive mood, emotional numbness, difficulty in engaging with social or other activities). The grief response has persisted for an atypically long period of time following the loss (more than 6 months at a minimum) and clearly exceeds expected social, cultural or religious norms for the individual’s culture and context. Grief reactions that have persisted for longer periods that are within a normative period of grieving given the person’s cultural and religious context are viewed as normal bereavement responses and are not assigned a diagnosis. The disturbance causes significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

How is complex grief treated?

In most cases, complex grief is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy, group/social support, and at times — medication. Certain modalities like trauma informed therapies (ART, EMDR, Somatic therapies, mindfulness) in conjunction with other therapies that target impulses & thought patterns like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) are often integrated into a treatment plan. What works best can depend on the person and their family system. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups,relational work, and making changes, if needed, along the way.

When should I call your office? 

If you or your loved ones have concerns about healing from grief, you can work with a specialist. At Soma Therapy, we can help! Call 316-201-6047 or fill out our contact form to get help & learn more about anger management resources today. We also often provide referrals in-town if we cannot connect you with the right resources within Soma Therapy. 

Resources & Sources