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Therapy for Grief

Grief can weigh heavy on anyone. It can cause disruptions in personal, professional or even spiritual connection with oneself. During times of grief it tends to happen in five different stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages don’t happen in any sort of order and for some they don’t always experience all the stages, but reaching out to obtain support in times of grief can be very rewarding.

Grief is primarily the feeling of loss and can be in relationship to loss of job, loved one or loss in any other forms including physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and/or spiritual. Everyone grieves differently and in their own time, but when it causes disruptions in daily activities or personal relationships at work and at home is when it becomes much more concerning.



The initial reaction to loss includes a feeling of shock. Learning someone you love is gone creates a numbness and fills a person with doubt. This is a form of emotional protection and can last for weeks. The time experienced often reflects the suddenness of the death, but there is no cookie cutter recipe for grief. It’s not uncommon for someone to go through the shock phase throughout the duration of funeral preparation simply to get through the process.


The next stage of grief reflects the stubbornness of the human spirit. The mind goes into a state of denial to avoid the pain and reality of loss. A person can deny a loved one’s passing for weeks no matter the circumstances around the death. People experience other kinds of denial as well. For instance, a grieving person may deny that the loss affects them in a serious manner. Denial is a type of self-preservation much like shock.  A person’s experience with the stage helps shelter them from the eventual pain and ensuing stages of grief.


As a person begins to feel the full realization of someone’s death, their numbness leads the way to extreme emotional pain and suffering. Guilt often accompanies this pain. A person may feel survivor’s guilt or a constant sense of “what might have been.” They may feel remorse over missed opportunities or things they did or didn’t do with their loved one before their passing. It’s important to experience the full depth of pain when going through grief. Masking this stage with alcohol or drugs only makes things worse in the long run.


The negotiation phase occurs when a grieving person needs an emotional release from the shock and pain of loss. This phase involves wrestling with fate or “the powers that be” to try and make sense of loss. Of course, there is nothing one can do to bring someone back from the dead.


People going through this phase tend to lash out at the ones around them as an unwarranted reaction to the feelings of helplessness. One may place undue blame on someone else for the death. Grief strains the relationships of the living. To preserve these relationships, it’s imperative to find a way to release these extreme emotions in a healthy manner. Failing to do so may permanently damage ties you have with friends, family, or coworkers.


People who never experienced depression before have a hard time with this stage. Depression is all-encompassing and consumes your life. While it may seem extreme and worrying to go through a depression stage it is perfectly healthy to do so when grieving. After all the energy expelled and mental anguish of the other stages, depression gives you time to reflect and recover. Taking ample time to feel the loneliness and isolation make it easier to re-enter the world when you are ready.

When going through depression, avoid people who encourage you to “snap out of it.” For one, you cannot control your emotions that way. Instead, let yourself feel the despair and emptiness– just as you let yourself feel the other stages. This is a significant period of reflection and recuperation.


As a person adjusts to life without the person they grieve, the depression and other extreme feelings fade away. Common signs of acceptance include:

Restructuring life without the person

Cleaning out the loved one’s personal items

Working on financial and social problems

Seeking out old relationships and support systems

Beginning new projects or hobbies

Acceptance does not equate to happiness. Rather, acceptance is the stage where a grieving person makes a conscious decision to move on and work towards a feeling of normality again. After a significant loss, a person rarely feels the same way they were before again. Acceptance occurs when a person stops looking towards the past and focuses on the future.


Grief, at some point in our lives, we all experience & whether it’s due to loss of a loved one, job changes, identity and/or any other great sorrowful experiences, we all experience it differently. There are seven stages of grief that may or may not all be experienced and can be in no particular order. Stages of grief include shock & disbelief, denial, guilt & pain, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


In order to move forward, a client may find therapy to be the right aid in their distress and adaption into a new life with those changes.


As a therapist, it is important to assist the client in their time of grief  by aiding them in their psychological, behavioral, social, physical and/or  economics consequences that can arise. The goal is helping to alleviate pain, reduce dysfunction, work through any conflicts or challenges, and help them to promote adaption in the face of intense emotions. It’s important as a therapist to be knowledgable in how the trauma of loss and attachment issues can also complicate grief but also be improved by EMDR skills and in-session processes.


Even while these processes can sound traumatic, as an EMDR therapist, it’s important to always be taking into account the ways in which to avoid re-traumatization, improve functionality, and promote healing all at the client’s own pace.

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You are not alone and therapy can help!