When you experience a loss, whether it’s sudden or expected, you may find that you are struggling with how to deal with it in a healthy way. Overcoming loss can be challenging, especially if you are trying to process complicated grief. You can find hope, though, in the help that is available to guide you through it all.
The Paths of the Grieving Experience
Although individuals are different in how they respondto the loss of a friend or loved one, each person tends to follow a path through the grieving experience that includes phases such as:
- Allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss
- Accepting the reality of your loss
- Adjusting to a new reality in which your friend or loved one is no longer present in your life.
If you find that you cannot move through the stages more than a year after your loss, you may be experiencing what is known as complicated grief.
Losing someone is always difficult. It’s normal to need time to process through the stages of grief. However, sometimes the feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t seem to be improving after time passes. When you are experiencing complicated grief, your emotions are long lasting and severe. You are having trouble recovering from your loss to the point where you can’t resume your own life.
Complicated grief affectsyou in many different ways, including mentally, socially, and physically. If you do not get help so you can learn how to process complicated grief in a healthy way, you may experience:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disturbances
- Physical illness such as heart disease or high blood pressure
- Difficulty with daily living, including maintaining relationships and work activities
- Misuse and abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Your complicated grief may result from the suddenness of the loss of your friend or loved one. It may also be affected by your relationship to the person you have lost, especially if you were very close or if you had a very contradictory relationship.
You can find hope and help to process complicated grief as you work on overcoming loss. One effective strategy is to talk about the loss of your friend or loved one with people you trust and can rely on, to help you understand what happened. Talking will also help you remember your friend or family member, particularly if you are able to share good memories. When you avoid the subject, it can lead to further isolation, disrupting your healing process.
It is critical when you are experiencing complicated grief to take care of yourself and your family. When you grieve, it can take a toll on you mentally and physically. Take care of your physical health by eating nutritious meals and getting exercise. Try to get plenty of restful sleep also.
Accepting your feelings is an important strategy for your mental health. Acknowledge that you will experience a range of emotions, including anger and sadness. You may even find that you have become mentally and physically exhausted.
A professional counselor can guide you through positive and healthy ways to cope with your feelings so you can get your life back on track. Therapy, including talk therapy, as well as yoga, and meditation can help you process complicated grief as you are overcoming loss.
Your complicated grief may have progressed to the point where you are experiencing additional symptoms. Grief reactions can turn into a major depression, for example. If you find that you are avoiding any reminders of your friend or loved one, if you constantly think about or dream about them, or if you panic easily or become scared when you are faced with reminders of them, you may be suffering from PTSD.
You may also find that you are turning to drugs or alcohol, in an attempt to avoid the painful feelings of your loss. When you are challenged with sleeplessness or anxiety, you might try to self-medicate with these substances and that could lead to abuse or even addiction.
Getting help for your complicated grief and the associated complications is critical, regardless of which stage of grief you are experiencing.
Southern California Addiction Treatment Center
At Hope by the Sea, our experiential and holistic therapies offer you help for growing emotionally and spiritually, overcoming loss and processing complicated grief in a healthy, productive way. If your unprocessed grief has led to addiction, our doors are open to you as your struggle with alcohol and substance use disorders. Our team continues to follow federal, state, and local public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 to ensure our clients’ safety. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services. Hope Starts Here!