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When to Seek Help with the Grief Process


There are many types of losses that result in grief.  The most prominent ones are the loss of a spouse, a son or a daughter, divorce and the loss of a job.  There are also different ways that we react to these major life events.  Some people are able to work through the grief process on their own but many are not able to do this or will only be able to do this over a very long time.  An article in the January 9, 2005 issue of  Time Magazine by Claudia Wallis titled “The New Science of Happiness” says that the average time spent navigating the grief process is 5 to 8 years for someone who lost a loved one.  This was based on a study by Edward Diener, who is an American psychologist, professor, and author.

Let’s put this in perspective.  If the average life expectancy is 78 years old, this equates to anywhere from 6% to 10% of someone’s entire life.  Or if this loss occured when one was 60 years old, the average grief process could take up almost half of that person’s remaining life.  Doesn’t this seem like a long time to be spent in a state of unhappiness and desperation?  What can be done to shorten the time spent in the grief process?  Time does not heal but how one spends their time working through the loss is very important.  Everyone should realize that sometimes the best course of action is to seek help from someone who specializes in grief counseling.

Through the proper application of grief counseling, the period of time spent in this “state of limbo” can be reduced significantly.  My story is a prime example of this.  I lost my wife of 40 years to breast cancer.  I had just moved into a new home and was in between jobs at the same time.  I decided shortly after my wife’s death that I was not going to let this loss steal a major portion of my remaining life.  What I like to say is that I attacked the grief process.  I started attending a Grief Share program offered by my church.  I read numerous books on the subject and conducted much research on the Internet.  I also enlisted the help of some professional grief coaches at the Grief Coach Academy, which I later joined so I could help others who need assistance with the grief process so they can return to a fulfilling and joyful life.

By putting forth some concentrated effort and enlisting the help of grief counseling professionals, I was able to not only reduce the time spent there but also learned a lot about the grief process and how it impacts my life.  Some of the things that came out of the way that I navigated the grief process are as follows:

  • It is OK to express my feelings and show my emotions.  This is an integral part of what I was going through.
  • I don’t have to feel like I have to go it alone.  There are many people who are ready, willing and able to offer a helping hand.
  • The 5 stages of grief  have to be addressed, although not in any particular order or with equal weighting.  Everyone is different in how they address the grief process.
  • Only through a concerted effort on my part did I progress through my particular grief experience.
  • There was substantial guidance provided to me by friends, family members and professionals.  I learned to accept this because they had my best interests at heart.
  • I learned a lot about myself during this episode in my life.  Things that I could use in the future.
  • After progressing through the grief process I can honestly say that I have become a happier and more complete human being.
  • Because of my positive experience I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others through this difficult period of time.  The satisfaction of helping others is the best reward for me.

The result, it took me only a few months to navigate my personal grief process.  I am so happy that I reached out for help with this issue that can have such a dramatic effect on one’s life.  How do you know when it is time to consider enlisting the support of someone who specializes in grief counseling?  Below are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Have you lost the ability to enjoy things that used to provide you personal  satisfaction?
  2. Do you find yourself not wanting to be around your family and friends because you believe you would “put a damper on the party”?
  3. Do you find yourself constantly thinking of your loved one after several months after his or her death?
  4. Are you afraid of becoming close to new people or even with existing family and friends because you fear of losing them at some point?
  5. Do you try to keep yourself constantly busy so that you won’t think about your loss?
  6. Do you feel numb to your normal emotions?
  7. Are you unable or unwilling to express your true feelings about various aspects of your life that used to be very important to you?
  8. Do you feel stuck in your grief, unable to move on, even though it has been quite some time since the death of your loved one?

To ask for and seek help is not a sign of weakness.  Rather it is the smart thing to do if you are having difficulty navigating the grief process.  It is not disrespectful to your loved one who you lost to do something to help you address the issues associated with grief.  If this can help you lessen the length of time spent grieving, then I hope you would welcome this opportunity.  If you would like to talk to me about this subject, please contact me.

Jim Koeneman

New Life Grief Counseling LLC

E-mail:  Koeneman@comcast.net

Cell:  630-267-1647

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