Grief Counseling – Take your time…...but how long is too long?

By: Peggy Burns

Many, if not all of us, have experienced grief in our lifetime. The baby boomers most likely have experienced the loss of one or both of their parents by this time and perhaps even a sibling. I am one of those baby boomers who have lost both parents and two siblings.

The loss of a loved one is like no other experience, it’s devastating and heartbreaking. You may think you will never feel the same, and that's true, but you won’t always feel as bad as you do when it happened. 

Is There a Time Frame for Grieving?

Although there are well-recognized “stages of grief,” you may not go through them in order and you many even go backwards and feel anger again, for instance, or resignation, only to start all over again.   

Grieving is personal and the time frame varies from a year to two, perhaps longer. I say two years only because if you are still grieving like you did when you first experienced the loss, then it may be time to seek grief counseling. 

How Might Grief Counseling Help?

Grief counseling isn’t that different from other counseling. It is a forum to express your feelings, tell the counselor that you are still sad, still miss your loved one, and be able to talk about him or her. It’s a place where you can think about how to move forward with more clarity, strength, and understanding of how you are being affected by this loss in your life and what that means for your future.  

A person-centered approach to grief counseling offers a supportive and empathic relationship where you can feel safe, and offers unconditional positive acceptance as you struggle with your feelings of grief. Often times the person you are mourning is the person you have counted on as emotional support, and counseling can help supply a little of that missing support.

I find that one of the biggest questions is “What could I have done to prevent it from happening?” In most circumstances, there was nothing that you could have done to stop it from happening. Taking the personalization out of the picture is a necessary step and talking through these emotions will help with that process.

Grieving is also Active, Not Just Talking

The approach I like to use is based on Worden’s task-based model, which sees mourning as an active process that involves four tasks:

  • Accepting the reality of the loss;

  • Experiencing the reality of the loss;

  • Adjusting to the world without the deceased; And

  • Finding an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.

These four tasks time – your own time. Grief is a journey that people are reluctant to take because in order to change grief, you must experience the sadness and pain of loss. It is not a road one likes to travel down alone.

It seems like an impossible task at the beginning, but with time, it will start to happen. If it doesn’t or you feel stuck in one of the tasks for too long, then maybe it is time to seek a counselor.


The Power of Vulnerability

By: Emily Franchi: Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 12:43 PM

The presence of a strong social support network has been proven to be vital to maintaining physical and mental health. Positive social support can help increase resiliency to stress and protect against trauma-related psychological difficulties. Research has shown that relationships can be strengthened and provide us with the greatest sense of fulfilment through the practice of vulnerability. 

Dr. Brené Brown has spent much of her career studying the power of vulnerability and why many of us shy away from being vulnerable with our loved ones and close friends. She highlights shame and the fear of being perceived by others as weak or as a burden as key forces driving our avoidance of vulnerability. In a sense, we block vulnerability in an effort to protect ourselves from disappointment and grief. However, Dr. Brown’s research has found that asking our loved ones for help and support during times of need actually fosters love, trust, and connectedness in relationships. 

Through her interviews with hundreds of individuals, she has found that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and open in our relationships, cultivates joy, belongingness, and an ability to live more authentically. Dr. Brown uses the word, “wholehearted,” to describe people living in a place of vulnerability. Wholeheartedness, she claims, is gained through a practice of gratitude, empathy, and a willingness to seek help and communicate openly in our most important relationships. Please watch the videos below to learn more about Dr. Brown’s research on vulnerability.

Redefining, Accepting and Creating Space for Failure

By: Emily Franchi: Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 10:17 PM

     Adolescence and early adulthood mark a period of life when individuals face the challenge of creating their own identities and experimenting in new social groups, occupational roles and changing environments. Today’s youths have the added pressure of comparing their own lives, relationships and successes to the idealized and curated online personas found on social media profiles. This unrealistic version of someone else’s life fosters a drive towards perfectionism and a fear of failure that can negatively affect motivation, happiness and satisfaction as individuals traverse an already challenging period of life. 

     With this in mind, it’s important to teach the teenagers and young adults in our lives to understand the benefits of failure, and, more importantly, the difference between failing and being a failure. To fail at a project or activity means to have put forward one’s best effort towards accomplishing a goal. Putting forth that effort is an accomplishment in and of itself. There is a significant difference between failing and being a failure. Failure is inevitable, and creates space for an individual to grow and to learn new ways of thinking and approaching a problem in the future. It does not mean that one “is a failure.” To “be a failure” is but a mindset; it blocks creativity and the road to success by creating a voice within ourselves that tells us to stop trying. The most important lesson one can learn as a young adult is how to move forward from failure, accepting it as a lesson learned and an opportunity to try again.