“You have to feel it to heal it”
Grief is a normal and common human experience. When we lose someone, it is normal and necessary to feel the pain of that loss and to go through a grieving process. The process usually includes various emotional stages such as ‘shock’, ‘denial’, ‘anger’, ‘sadness’ and finally, ‘acceptance’. Different types of losses can trigger grief reactions – death or separation from a loved one, losing a child through miscarriage, the end of a relationship, infertility, the loss associated with childhood trauma, and job or financial security loss, just to name a few. For any important loss, the ability and space to experience the grieving process is very important. Inhibited or delayed grief arises when a person has stopped themselves from grieving (because the reality of the loss is too painful) properly and their emotions become subsequently blocked. A person may then be much more vulnerable to becoming significantly depressed the next time they lose someone or experience some type of loss. Complicated grief is a term to describe a difficult adjustment to losing someone due to other psychological factors. For example, a person may have strong feelings of guilt associated with the deceased person even though such guilt may not be justified. If these issues are not resolved, a person is at greater risk of emotional distress and depression compared with a person with no such issues. Any form of unresolved grief is a key vulnerability factor for depression and needs to be worked through in order for the person to actually adjust to and accept the loss and then to continue their life with greater resiliency. Experiential, emotion-focused and cognitive-behavioural based therapies are used for helpful and effective grief work. Grief therapy can often be done very successfully in the short term.