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Understanding Grief and Loss

Grief is a shared human emotion that everyone will experience at some stage in their life. It is experienced in many different ways for many different people and may be triggered again by certain events, situations, or objects. When grief can be expressed and understood, we are more likely to process the loss and come to a level of acceptance over time. 

What is Grief and Loss?

Grief is a multifaceted experience made up of feelings such as shock, denial, depression, anger, regret, and guilt. This can include thoughts about the loss and the circumstances leading to it, as well as behaviours such as social withdrawal or crying and changes to physical well-being. 


Grief is experienced in different ways for different people. The more significant a loss is to a person, the more significant the grief reaction will be. There is no set timeframe for grief, but it typically takes a few months to wrap our heads around the loss and for some may take years due to a lack of opportunity to grieve (e.g., if they are still wrapping up their loved ones affairs and haven’t had a moment to stop).  Grief is usually triggered by the loss of a loved one, pregnancy, job opportunity, relationship, mobility/independence, cultural identity, way of life, or envisioned future.


Grief is also cyclical, and people will get triggered by various things over time. This is completely normal, and the intensity of the reactions will subside over time. 

Why is it so important to understand Grief?

Understanding grief and loss is important so that a normal human experience doesn’t cause more distress or last longer than is necessary. Complicated grief can develop if the loss was unexpected, traumatic, or the person hasn’t had an opportunity to release their emotions and process their thoughts. 


Grief can also impact other areas of life such as work, finances, and relationships. When it does, this can put further burden on the grieving person to “keep it together” so these situations don’t add additional stress to the already difficult loss. 

How can a Psychologist help?

A psychologist is someone who can listen to people’s experience of loss and hold space for them. This is invaluable as some people may not feel able to speak to those around them as they are going through the same loss, or have been dismissive, or expect them to have already “moved on”. 

Psychologists can provide supportive grief counselling by listening and helping find ways to express and release the emotions that are a part of grief. By doing this, it prevents the further development of other issues such as complicated grief or other mental health challenges. 


Psychologists can also help by exploring the thoughts surrounding the loss and help shift the meaning-making that can occur to something that is more accepting and values-driven e.g. “My life is over because I can’t walk on my own” to “I can still pursue my goals, I will just have to learn how to use this wheelchair”. 
 

 

Conclusion

Grief is a multi-faceted universal human reaction to loss. When grief can be expressed and understood, we are more likely to process the loss and come to a level of acceptance over time. Psychologists can help with this process by holding space for you and being a sounding board to you. 

For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on hello@reimaginepsychology.melbourne.