BEREAVEMENT AND GRIEF
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Everybody experiences grief and loss differently. If you’ve lost a loved one, the way you experience the loss will be influenced by the closeness of the relationship, the nature and type of relationship, and the nature of the loss. When the loss involves a situation such as job loss or divorce, your reaction is affected by how significant the situation was to you, if it provided you with a sense of purpose, and whether you feel the loss will lower others opinions of you. Grief may be affected by our methods of coping, life experiences, personality style, culture, religion, and often, social rules that dictate accepted manners of grieving.
Normal Grief and Loss
Grief differs from person to person and situation to situation; there is no “normal” definition for grief. However, there are some commonalities expected when someone is grieving. Some people may feel sad, cry, feel extremely tired, have difficulty sleeping, lose their appetite, have difficulty concentrating, paying attention, making decisions, or remembering things. He or she may withdraw from friends and loved ones, preferring to be alone. Others may stay home for long periods of time or may be compelled to stay out of the house all of the time. Still, others may experience symptoms of depression.
When Do Grief and Loss Become a Problem?
Grief is a normal and an unavoidable reaction to loss. Most professionals consider 12 months as a limit for normal grieving, however, based on the culture and type of loss, some individuals may experience normal grief for a longer period of time. When a person who is grieving begins to experience other, more intense forms of grief including intrusive thoughts and images of the deceased person, denial of the death, wanting to die, imagining the deceased is still alive, or a physically painful yearning for his or her presence, he or she may be experiencing abnormal grief. When the symptoms of grief linger and become debilitating, normal grief may become complicated, unresolved, protracted, traumatic, or complicated grief. This form of grief has features of both post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Some indicators of problematic grief and loss include:
- Grief lasting longer than 12 months
- Constant yearning for the individual or situation lost
- Frequent crying
- Becoming preoccupied or fixated on the individual or situation lost
- The person may become fixated on the manner in which the deceased died
- Difficulty accepting the loss, such as continuing to prepare meals for the deceased
- Disbelief that the loss occurred
- Distressing memories of the lost individual or situation
- Self-blame for the loss though the individual could not have prevented it
- Difficulty thinking positively about the person or situation
- Excessive avoidance of reminders of the person or situation
- Trouble trusting others
- In the case of death, the desire to die to be with the person
- A sense of detachment from others
- Belief that it’s impossible to function without the individual or situation
- Feeling that life no longer has meaning
- Decreased self-esteem
- Difficulty identifying one’s role in life
- Difficulty planning for the future
- Loss of desire to pursue interests or engage in previously enjoyable activities
- Extremely distressing anxiety or depression
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