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ACCEPTANCE & COMMITMENT THERAPY

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GRIEF & LOSS THERAPY

Grief and loss experiences can affect a person’s feelings, behaviors, and thoughts.

During a lifetime, we all experience multiple losses. Grief and loss therapy can help to offer support through the bereavement or transition process, regardless of whether or not an individual has a formal mental health diagnosis.

 

There are many types of losses and talking to a therapist can allow one to process the meanings of these losses and the changes in identity that they can spur. Loss can include the loss of a job, home, functioning, and even the loss that occurs when there is a transition (Klass, Silverman & Nickman, 1999). One example of loss is when a child goes off to kindergarten or college, which may bring on grief as well as a longing for the past. Indeed, any change can be a form of loss of the way things once were.

 

Cultural beliefs and traditions influence how people express grief. In some cultures, grief may be open and sociable. In other cultures, grief is experienced privately and quietly. Culture generally guides the time period in which family members are expected to grieve. In short, culture, the support of family and friends, and the adaptability to change all influence an individual’s ability to cope with loss. Having a therapist to accompany one through the process of change and reflection can be powerfully beneficial (Gire, 2014).

Disenfranchised Grief refers to experiences of grief that are not recognized by society as valid, thereby leaving the person alone in processing their loss (Doka, 1989, 2002). For example, during a pandemic where many people are dying, someone who is experiencing the loss of an important milestone like graduation, or an economic loss due to the fallout from social distancing, may not feel that their losses deserves recognition. Nevertheless, self-disenfranchising these losses may make them more challenging to cope with.  Understanding disenfranchised grief allows us to validate feelings of loss and generate support (Nash, 2020).  

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What are the symptoms of grief?

For both the person facing death and survivors after the death of a loved one, it is natural to experience many symptoms of grief (Grief & Loss, n.d.). These can include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of energy or fatigue

  • Excessive sleeping or overworking and excessive activity

  • Headaches and upset stomach

 

Emotional symptoms:

  • Memory lapses, distraction, and preoccupation

  • Depression and feelings of euphoria

  • Irritability

  • Extreme anger or feelings of being resigned to the situation

Spiritual symptoms:

  • Feelings of being closer to God or feelings of anger and outrage at God

  • Strengthening of faith or questioning of faith

Dr. Judith McCoyd Interview

Dr. Judith McCoyd is an Associate Professor at Rutgers School of Social Work and co-author of Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan, a book that seeks to educate mental health clinicians on how to address the needs of someone experiencing grief and loss. She is also the author of Social Work in Health Settings, a comprehensive and insightful analysis of social work practice in health care.  

Currently, many individuals are grieving the loss of loved ones and lifestyle due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. McCoyd joins us again to discuss the theory of Disenfranchised Grief in order to provide  context and some suggestions for how we can process grief and loss on many levels.

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