Grief, Loss, and Recovery

When someone close to us dies, or we lose something that has been central to our life – like our health, a cherish pet, or our financial security – we feel as if we have lost a part of ourselves. We may question the basic assumptions about the nature of the world and the meaning of our own existence. We have many feelings, thoughts, and sensations that are uncomfortable. While such feelings are normal reactions, they can be very painful. We can become depressed, anxious, unable to stop crying, isolate ourselves, stop eating or eat too much, have difficulty sleeping and suffer from frightening reoccurring dreams or nightmares. Not everyone may understand or know how to respond. We may feel very alone and not know what to do. That’s when counseling can help us recover.


INTENSE GRIEF – When the full reality of our loss sets in, the intense pain begins. Sometimes medication from our primary care physician can help, but ultimately nothing can, nor should, fully block the pain of loss. We need to feel it and express it or it stays with us.

ACCOMMODATION – A significant loss changes our lives significantly. Usually many things have to change and we have to make uncomfortable adjustments we’d rather not make and new ways stabilize our life.

REORGANIZATION – Ultimately we need to be able to remember life as it was before the loss without intense pain or longing.

ANNIVERSARY REACTIONS – On particular dates or times like holidays, birthdays, or the day the loss occurred, the pain of the loss may return or intensify. This too is normal but can is another time counseling can be helpful.

The Tasks of Grief

There are four main tasks grief calls for us to carry out during these phases. Though we roughly face these tasks in the following order, they will usually over lap and depending on the seriousness of the loss can take from several months to a year or more to complete.

Task One:    To accept the reality of the loss, to fully face that the loved on is gone and will not return.

Task Two:    To process the pain of grief, physical, emotional and behavioral, including all the feelings that arise in addition to sorrow such as anger,  guilt, anxiety and loneliness.

Task Three: To adjust to life without the loved one, to all the changes and upheaval the death means to our daily life practically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, as well as to our sense of self, our self-esteem, our self-definition, self-confidence, and inner well-being.

Task Four:    To find an enduring connection to the one we loved in the context of a new life without them.

Too often people will try to avoid Task Two because it is indeed very painful and difficult. Also the pressing demands of getting on with the practical necessities of life may force us to set our feelings aside to varying degrees. Avoiding this stage however usually takes a later toll, often in the form of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress. When these tasks become too difficult, grief counseling can help with undertaking them without such debilitating reactions later.



  • Get emotional support; allow yourself to lean on friends for help and comfort. Seek religious support if you feel that will help.

  • Allow time to grieve; let yourself be alone, especially when you desire it.

  • Do not force yourself to cry or try to feel things you don’t feel.

  • Maintain some activity and routine, even when this takes effort.

  • Remind yourself that what you are experiencing is natural and a necessary part of psychological healing, and is not a result of a mental illness.

  • Seek professional help if your grief does not change with time, if you become very depressed, confused, disorganized, anxious, and fearful, or suicidal.