Losses Creeping Up on You?
Could it be grief?
She left her home of 15 years where she’d raised her kids. Moved to a new town where she didn’t know anybody. Started a new job where she was the outsider. And faced new physical challenges not knowing or really trusting her medical team. When she came to my office months later she was sad, stuck, and skeptical that she could find a life in her new town. We talked about all the losses she’d experienced – community, social identity, work family, and knowledgeable professionals she trusted. As she was leaving she said, “I didn’t put it all together as grief. I really have lost a lot.” Grief isn’t just the loss of a person. Loss of dreams can be cumulative and difficult to adapt to as they accumulate over time. How can you tell if you are mourning and experiencing grief? Here’s a few questions I ask clients about when they come in for help.
- Can you pinpoint exactly why you’re sad? There’s often an object of your grief – the loss of spontaneous friends to call for coffee, feeling unsettled in your new home, or feeling landlocked away from the ocean you used to visit to refresh. When what you’ve lost is still alive and well but somewhere else, that’s still very much a loss because it’s not within your reach.
- Do you often feel misunderstood when trying to explain your feelings to others? Experiencing loss can be hard to explain and difficult for others to understand, especially when the sadness, frustration, and melancholy conversations continue over time. If others are growing weary of the story, it’s probably time to visit someone who is trained to help you process the losses with empathy and validation. What you feel is understandable with all you’ve been through.
- Do you question whether you have the right to be so sad? Losses of a dream can feel unjustified – even to the person in the middle of the grief. You feel guilty that you haven’t been able to just get up and get going – build something new and find your own way. Guilt can turn to shame and shame can be isolating and self-destructive. Sometimes you just need a little help getting started on the path through mourning.
Here’s a few things you can do today that might help:
- Journal – sometimes it helps to get thoughts and feelings out of your head and down on paper. Ending each journal entry with 3 things you are grateful for even if things aren’t exactly the way you want them to be right now.
- Check in on yourself – There are some helpful Apps to check-in on your emotional wellbeing and stay grounded in the present looking for the good. Some of the most popular are “Calm” and “Gratitude”. I’ve recently found a new one called “Momentum” that I like. It helps you to consider the negative self-talk going through your head and replace them with something that sounds kinder and more self-compassionate.
- Call in support – It helps to talk things out – to be heard and understood. When friends and family can’t give you what you need, turning to a professional to come alongside you can be Don’t go it all alone.
Recognizing emotional wounds and mourning them releases energy to explore ways to adapt to life after the losses. There’s no time like the present to start the healing process. Counseling can make a difference.