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Grief: Crucial Things You Need to Know


Grief: Crucial Things You Need to Know


Losing someone or something deeply valued in this life is commonly accepted as natural and inevitable. Knowing and understanding death or loss, however, doesn’t make accepting and living with the loss any easier or less painful. Grief is an intense human emotion. It is experienced because it is “the price of love” (Andrew Clark in BJPsych Advances) and “the cost of commitment” (Colin Murray Parkes in Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life).

You may feel grief after the loss of a job, health, relationship, or business, but the most challenging and painful loss that you may experience is losing someone you love, such as a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, or a very dear friend. It is natural to grieve when someone or something you love has been taken away from you. You should, however, be vigilant, because it can stir a host of confusing and unfamiliar feelings that can push you into a downward spiral of emotions. You do not want to be in intense grief for a long time. Recognizing that you need help is important to bounce back and live your life with the acceptance of your loss. 


Even Natural Grief Takes Time

Both Colin Murray Parkes and John Bowlby believe that natural grief “is an extension of the natural human response to separation.” It is a response to a traumatic experience, and as such, it generally takes time. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss, grieving can last from a few weeks to as long as years. Grieving has its value in helping you adjust to the changes in your life. It usually goes through four phases, or a “sequence of natural experiences”:

Phase I: Shock and protest—includes numbness, disbelief, and acute dysphoria

Phase II: Preoccupation—includes yearning, searching, and anger

Phase III: Disorganization—includes despair and acceptance of loss

Phase IV: Resolution

These phases, however, are affected by a number of variables, such as culture, personality, and other experiences. Thus, they are not distinctly separate from each other and have no precise duration. Every bereaved person’s grief is unique. For some the worst time may be after two weeks and depressive symptoms may last four to six weeks, but some may have these feelings extended for a much longer time. Natural grief will take its natural course, eventually moving on after one or two years for major bereavement issues.


Understanding Unnatural Grief

Bowlby’s other name for unnatural grief is “pathological grief.” There is “too little” grief, which is a case of inhibited or delayed grief. It entails the presence of certain factors that hinder the expression of grief and the eventual acceptance of its cause. There is also “too much” or chronic grief, in which the symptoms of grief are overextended for 6 months or longer.

Delayed grief is likely to happen to people who regard showing grief as a sign of weakness. They are typically excessively self-reliant and overconfident, or those whose emotions were discouraged when they were young. Delayed grief is likely to happen when the bereaved have no or very little support from family and friends, or are suffering from social isolation. Having no one to rely on, they are usually pressured to adjust on their own, putting grief aside.

According to Parkes, chronic grief may affect people who have a “grief-prone personality,” which he defines as “an overly dependent relationship to the lost other.” As a result of dependency, the bereaved is haunted by a pervading dread of losing the other. Bowlby says this dependency is something that can result from “early experiences of discontinuities in parenting and/or frequent rejection by parents.”


Recognizing the Need for Professional Assistance

Facing your grief all alone can be scary, yet you know you have to carry on despite your loss. Once the news or knowledge of the loss hits your consciousness, you will grieve. There will be physical (crying, weakness, insomnia or oversleeping), emotional (detachment, gloom, rage, irritability, guilt, fear, and/or anxiety), and behavioral (isolation, idleness, restlessness, lack of focus, incoherent thinking process, and/or difficulty remembering things) symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms should ease with the passage of time and as you accept the reality of your loss.

The grief you should watch out for is “complicated grief,” which may not be readily diagnosed for six months or longer. The symptoms are quite intense and can leave you scared. The physical symptoms include nightmares and substantial weight loss or gain. The emotional symptoms can be delayed or inhibited grief, hostility, phobias, panic attacks, illogical fears, and/or intense nostalgia for what was lost. Complicated grief may also make you withdraw, engage in self-harm, stay in denial, and show other depressive signs.  


Getting Back on Track with Help

If your grief is already making it too difficult for you to live a normal life or affecting your health, relationships, studies, or job, it is worthwhile to call Carolina Counseling Services – Sanford, NC, for help. A therapist independently contracted with CCS can professionally assess the symptoms that are impacting your health and life.

Are you in deep pain because of grief? Do you need help to overcome the intense emotion and get back on track? Despite the loss, you know you have to move on. Even when you are experiencing natural grief, the pain can be too much. If you are experiencing unnatural grief, it can be more complicated and the emotional turmoil too overwhelming. If you are stricken with intense grief, there is a way to grieve and still stay on a healthy track to recovery—seek professional help from Carolina Counseling Services – Sanford, NC.


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Sanford, NC

Counties: Chatham, Harnett, Lee and Moore County, NC

Areas: Sanford NC, Tramway NC, Olivia NC, Broadway NC, Cumnock NC, Gulf NC, Goldston NC, Carbonton NC, Glendon NC, Carthage NC, Cameron NC, Lillington NC, Moncure NC

Zip Codes: 27330, 27332, 28327, 27505, 27546




Rose Thomas, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Teens, Individuals, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Parenting, PTSD/Trauma Recovery, Acute Stress Disorder, Adult Sexual Abuse Survivors, Adjustment Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorders, Self-injurious/Self-Harm, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety, Disruptive Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Marital Conflict and Discord, LGBT, Substance Use Disorders
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Fetima Wellington, MS, LPC, LCAS-A

Specializes in: (Ages 6+) Children, Adolescents/Teens, Individuals, Couples, Family Therapy and Marriage Counseling. Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, Addiction and Recovery, Relationship Issues, Post Partum Depression, Family Conflict, Crisis Intervention, ODD, Conduct Disorder, LGBTQ
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