Transitions occur throughout life. Some are acknowledged as major life milestones (graduations, marriage, births, promotions). Others are met with nervous discomfort (dropouts, miscarriage,
Grief is a surprising, yet predictable, outcome of any life transition involving some type of loss. It is not reserved only for death and the loss of life. It can also occur with the loss of
position, loss of support, loss of relationship, loss of comfort, loss of a dream, and so on.
Grieving is most associated with emotions arising after the death of a loved one. But it is more insidious. It actually begins with the anticipation of loss. Notification of a terminal illness. Rumors of lay-offs and downsizing. A stalled career. The process accompanying dissolution and divorce. Professional and business failures such as bankruptcy or closing. Therefore, grief counseling is advisable prior to the actual event.
In the case of dying, as opposed to waiting for death to occur, grief counseling prior to death can be helpful to not just the bereaved but the patient as well.
Grief is a process
Grief and bereavement can be highly personal or involve a variety of friends and family members. Whether or not an event is as extreme as death, negative life transitions involve the loss of dreams, ideals, loving, support, and identity.
Grieving is a necessary and appropriate response to loss. The benefit of grief counseling is that one emerges emotionally more resilient.
Though Lisa had served as a teacher, mentor and consultant for nearly three decades, it took the death of her husband to demonstrate the difficulty of relying too heavily on self-sufficiency to
cope with that loss. It was only near the end of five years of declining health due to Alzheimer’s that Lisa was able to acknowledge her grief, grief that preceded his actual passing.
She drew three important conclusions from that experience.
- Grieving does not begin just at the moment of the passing of a loved one.
- Many otherwise self-sufficient people need assistance to overcome grief, cope with loss, and move on with their life.
- Grief accompanies any number of negative life transitions, not just death.
Grief and Grieving as a Transition
One can only commiserate so long with family and friends. For many people, resolution requires sharing deep emotions with someone skilled enough to facilitate healing…a professional.
Understanding feelings, and being helped to see light at the end of the tunnel, enhances the ability to cope. It initiates action, DOING something about grief, rather than being consumed by it. The goal is to find peace in spite of loss.