The word bereavement defines a loss to which an individual is trying to adapt. There are many types of losses. Some, such as the death of a love one is often unbearably difficult to navigate. There are times when no words can express the depth of anguish felt in the human soul and psyche as loss is experienced. Other loss, for example that of one's health, or the health of a family member, is often less finite, but equally disorienting, as the status quo is no longer stable or predictable. Other types of loss, a failed marriage, a dysfunctional family home resulting in a lost childhood, a once close friendship that is no longer vital, these produce bereavement as well, loss to which a person seeks to adapt.
Many feelings are associated with bereavement, including anger, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, sadness, and hopelessness to name a few. Sometimes individuals fail to acknowlege these feelings,or have no one with whom to safely process them. This often leads to problems and symptoms that produce maladaptive behavior. Drugs, alcohol and anger may be used to mediate the very real pain of grief that has gone unresolved.
Complicated grief reactions, those that are chronic,delayed, exaggertated, or masked can take a toll on one's health and relationships.
As a hospital chaplain and as a therapist, I have witnessed bereavement in thousands of individuals and families. Although there are common elements to our human grief, I have learned that for each individual bereavement is a unique experience. There is no right or wrong way to move through grief, and no time line that is common to everyone.
Because one's thoughts and emotions are in a state of (at times wild) fluctuation, the importance of having a support system in place during a time of bereavement cannot be overstated. Encouragement toward good self care, and the opportunity to safely process the complex emotions that arise throughout the grief experience is essential. The therapeutic relationship provides such a framework.
As a therapist, it is my privilege to journey alongside those who are experiencing grief, loss and bereavement in their lives. If this describes you, I welcome your inquiries and invite you to schedule an appointment.
Christine Livingston MA; LMFT
Yuba City; Roseville