When Grief Therapy Can Help

Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW

When Grief Therapy Can Help

Death is a natural part of life, and grief is a natural response to the death of a loved one. It makes sense that we might be able to move independently through the experience of grief as we adapt to the reality of life after loss. Sometimes, all we need is the gentle understanding and acceptance of those in our circles as we adjust to the absence of a loved one.

There are times when grief feels overwhelming, and begins to interfere with our ability to function. We can be caught in painful patterns of grief that are beyond the support our family and friends can offer us. Some signs that we might benefit from professional help include:

Suicidal thoughts. If you’re actively thinking about suicide, with a plan to die, please call a crisis line to talk with someone who understands and can give you the non-judgmental support you need when your loved ones are too worried to remain calm as you express your thoughts and feelings to work through them.

On-going, uncontrollable symptoms of distress including crying, insomnia, irritability, panic attacks or depression. These symptoms are all very common in grief, especially in the early days and weeks after a loss. As you adjust to the absence of your loved one, you should find that these symptoms decrease. Counselling can help if they continue, and if they interfere with your ability to work or take part in typical activities such as grocery shopping.

You’re relying on substances like drugs or alcohol to help you avoid your thoughts and feelings. This behaviour can cause additional difficulties with your health and your ability to function in life, and while it’s a common coping mechanism it can quickly escalate with negative consequences.

You don’t have family or friends who are able or willing to support you. It may be that you’re alone in the world after your loved one has died. Alternatively, it may be that the people in your life can’t support you in the ways you need. Maybe they don’t understand, or maybe they are too deep in their own grief.

You blame yourself, or you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts of reliving your loved one’s death. These symptoms of grief are associated with trauma and can benefit from professional support in your recovery.

Remember that while it’s natural to grieve, and grieving takes time, if you find yourself experiencing some of these more difficult situations as you try to cope with the loss of a loved one, there is help available. You can find supportive grief therapy that works for you through a referral by family and friends, your doctor or an internet search for grief therapy in your geographic region. Your grief has a real impact and you’re worthy of good support.

Broken Heart Syndrome

Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW

Broken Heart Syndrome

You may have heard the expression that someone “died of a broken heart”. If you’re grieving a deep and painful loss, you may feel as if your own heart is breaking. If you’re grieving deeply, you may be at risk of experiencing this syndrome yourself.
Broken Heart Syndrome is a real diagnosis of a temporary heart condition that can be brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. You can read more information about it here:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/broken-heart-syndrome/symptoms-causes/

When we are grieving, we feel deep emotional pain. That pain is translated in the body. We carry it in tension that contracts our muscles, reducing our mobility and causing pain. We may suffer headaches, breathing difficulties or digestive disturbances related to our emotional experience.

Research on pain tells us that emotional pain lights up the same centres in the brain that are activated by physical pain. When we hurt, our brain doesn’t distinguish between physical causes and emotional causes. Pain is pain, so our systems responds accordingly.
When we are grieving, we are also less likely to be taking care of our health. We may undereat or overeat in our distress. We often struggle to move through daily activities. Sleep disturbances are commonly reported by people who are grieving. All of these difficulties that are common symptoms of grief can also affect our heart health, making us more vulnerable to broken heart syndrome.

The human system is complex. Our brain, nervous system, muscular structure, organs and skeleton work together in miraculous patterns to keep us alive. Grief is a powerful force that can interrupt our usual functioning.

We tend to dismiss grief at times. We sometimes get caught up in the message that we should just get over it. We might minimize our symptoms and try to push our grief down and away from us so we don’t have to deal with it. It’s important to recognize that trying to avoid grief often causes us more difficulty in the long run.

Be aware of the real condition of broken heart syndrome. Be mindful that as painful as your grief is, ignoring it can cause even more difficulties. Be gentle with yourself and take good care of your emotional, spiritual and physical self as you work through your experience of grief. Your heart is tender and vulnerable at this time, and you’re worthy of tender care to prevent the experience of Broken Heart Syndrome.