Anna Billings, LMFT
             counseling  •  life coaching  •  soulwork 
                            couples, individuals, families, and organizations

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San Rafael, CA 94901

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The Territory of Grief

To experience the loss of a loved one through death or separation is among the most painful and difficult of life’s challenges.  Whether completely unexpected or anticipated ahead of time, the loss feels sudden and shocking.  All at once you find yourself plunged into the vast and profoundly personal territory of grief. 

For those on the outside, the journey of healing might appear to be one of getting past the pain to a place of acceptance.  But for those who personally traverse the terrain of loss, the road is multifaceted and complex.

Here are a just a few of the life-altering challenges that face you in the territory of grief:

Grasping the Physical Reality of Loss 

This is the place where shock and denial reverberate — a natural human response to overwhelming experiences.  The physical presence of someone you love touches all of your senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and that indefinable, unique energy of them.  When they are suddenly gone, it cracks the very foundation of reality as you’ve known it to be. 

Your mind records the new information that they are gone.  Yet it makes no sense.  So much within you simply doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to.  All those familiar, practiced responses you had towards them are still active.   The phone rings and for a split-second you think they’re calling.  You open the mail box, search your e mail, listen to your voicemail, and there in the background is that hidden anticipation — there might be a message from them.  You expect them to walk through the door at any moment.  You imagine you’ll wake up the next morning and they will be back.  But over and over, you wake to the same impossible reality.

In addition, there are countless reminders that trigger those automatic responses and sense of them — the sound of a door opening, a walk down a grocery store aisle as you pass one of their favorite foods, a song on the radio, the smell of pine needles baking in the hot sun along a trail where you walked together. 

This part of grieving is intense, personal and commonly experienced in the territory of grief.  It can’t be rushed and logical thought doesn’t touch it.  It is a place to cultivate patience and self-compassion.   It’s helpful if others in your life can also be patient and compassionate with you during this time.

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Grief

The emotions that accompany loss can be wild, intense, deep and varied.  They often come in waves, rising up within you to great heights, carrying you on their current and dropping you on shore, exhausted.  At times there are moments of calm and even a sense of having moved past the grief.  But then out of nowhere, emotions rise up again and another wave comes crashing through. 

The range of emotion can include profound sadness, anger, fear, regret as well as intense love and longing. At times even humor and laughter break through along with particular remembrances like sunshine sparkling on the waves of grief.  And then more sadness. 

This is a time to cultivate self acceptance, understanding, healthy comforts and self care.  Knowing that the emotions are a normal part of the healing process, you can learn to pace yourself with conscious self care and the help compassionate listeners.  This is an ideal time to seek the help of a seasoned therapist to accompany you as you traverse this difficult territory.  A competent, caring therapist can offer guidance and support as well as help you discover the jewels along the path that can ultimately enrich your experience of life and further your self development. 

Poetry that Speaks to Loss: click here

Future Additions to this Article :

What Helps — Nurturing Support Along the Path

Lost Identity — Who am I Without Them? — Rebuilding Your Sense of Self

Shattered Future — Lost Dreams and Aspirations — New Directions

Purpose and Meaning

Relating to Others — Community, friendships – new and old, what lasts, what changes

Releasing Self-Blame, Guilt, and Regrets

Creating a New Relationship with Your Departed Loved One

The Subtle Signs of Healing


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