Boynton Beach Grief Counseling

Much of life consists of loss. Life experienced by each individual is finite leading to loss. The previous moment is lost to the next and the next and so on ad infinitum. We and others age, lose mobility and capacities. People die. We relocate. Colleagues and friendships come and go throughout one’s lifetime. Eras end. It all sounds a bit depressing. It can be. 

Grief counseling in Boynton Beach

How does one maintain a sense of joy, peace, hope, optimism or fulfillment in the face of so much loss? Over the years as I have assisted so many individuals in grieving their losses, I have come to this conclusion – the most important emotion to master to lead a meaningful life is grief. 

Consequences of Avoiding Grief

I have witnessed the negative consequences of avoiding one’s grief: closing off to what life could be to protect oneself; avoiding close relationships due to fear of loss; refraining from pursuing one’s dreams as a result of a previously ungrieved unrealized dream. But grief is painful. It hurts. It can be downright overwhelming and traumatic at times. Yes on all counts. 

This is the human predicament. Grief is painful. And our first inclination is to avoid pain, which is a product of our survival-based brain. However, as previously outlined, if we avoid grief it causes even more long-term pain. What I have found helpful to my clients and those I love to resolve this predicament is to provide a strong enough motivator for leaning into the pain and a supportive relationship from which to do so. 

The Value of Grief

Each of our emotions has evolved for what is referred to as evolutionary or adaptive value. “What is the value of grief,” you may ask. In my opinion and experience, grief has two main adaptive values. The first, and I believe most important, is to orient us to what truly matters. I don’t know about you but life has an uncanny ability to do what I refer to as, “Getting my head up my ass.” I have bills to pay, kids to get to school, events to attend, judgments to fear, etc. This all results in me frequently getting distracted and losing temporary site of what matters most. 

When you lose someone, or something, important, grief will immediately let you know with clarity what is most significant in life. Take for example, a client of mine that was pursuing worthiness through achievement and financial success. As a result, he neglected his most important relationships, as well as his physical health. His oldest son felt neglected and abandoned by him and ended up seeking acceptance and approval through negative peers. This led to his son abusing substances and eventually dying from a drug overdose. 

What Really Matters

My client entered therapy distraught with grief, regret, and shame. He became all too aware of how his efforts to compensate for his core unworthiness led to the neglect of his son and his son feeling unloved and neglected. Grief immediately informed him of this reality. Our emotions connect us to reality. When we are not connected to our core emotions, we are not connected to our reality. While focused on material success my client was unaware of the relational losses he was incurring on a daily basis. 

Here is a less extreme example of the adaptive value of grief.  I am a father of three. My oldest is my daughter. When I dropped her off at college her freshman year, I returned home and went to relax. As I sat on the couch, I observed all the pictures from throughout her life hanging on the wall and immediately became sad. All those times are now gone. She is no longer a little girl. The era of her living at home was over for good. It all went so unbelievably fast, just like my elders warned me it would. 

Instead of turning on the TV or grabbing a drink and heading out back, I sat there and allowed the sadness to move through me as I stared at her pictures. The effect was twofold: it resulted in me slowing down with my two younger children and being much more present and aware of the pricelessness of our moments together; I don’t get an unlimited number of them; I also grieved the loss of our past moments, opening me up to what could be experienced in the present and future. 

Freedom From The Past

The latter is the second primary value of grief: it releases us from the past and opens us to the full possibility of what we could be experiencing in the present moment. The avoidance of grief results in the opposite: remaining stuck in the past and limiting what could be encountered in the present. Remember, emotions are our resource for the present situation. What we are in need of is guidance in support to learn how to utilize our emotional energy in an effective manner. 

Trauma and Grief

One of the challenges with grief is its correlation with trauma. There is considerable overlap with trauma and grief. Greif will incrementally flow, trauma will not; trauma keeps one stuck in the past to reexperience it repeatedly. Whatever we cannot regulate, we will disassociate or block. Loss can be traumatic. When we lose a significant individual in our life, it can override our ability to regulate or cope resulting in a traumatic stress response. 

Many of the clients I have worked over the years are perplexed as to why they have not been able to grief sufficiently and move on with their life. The reason typically is that the loss was traumatic. Relationships are about attachment. We can have numerous attachments in our life but our primary attachments consist of parent/child, spouses, child/parent, or the most significant emotional attachments we have experienced. 

Loss of Attachment

Our attachment systems are neurologically based in the more primitive parts of the brain. Loss of an attachment figure can trigger a survival response, such as a dissociative state leading to the formation of traumatic stress symptoms. Furthermore, much of our psychological identity is associated with the most important people in our lives. The loss of them frequently triggers a disruption in our sense of identity and how we perceive and structure reality. This leads to further emotional trauma and challenges in grieving the loss. 

Working with grief in therapy is about providing a safe emotional space and relationship to begin processing all these complex emotional aspects of grieving. There can also be what is referred to as complicated bereavement. This is where something creates another emotional complicating issue associated with grief, such as guilt about conflict prior to the person’s death, or a belief one could have done something to save them, or regret one did not make the loved one enough of a priority and spend more time with them. 

Misconceptions About Grief

There are also myths or fallacies about grieving, such as the 5 stages of grief. This concept came from the work of Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her famous work, On Death and Dying. What most people don’t realize is her work was primarily focused on how individuals who were dying came to a place of acceptance of their own death, not on those who were grieving them. There is no rote formula for grieving. 

As with anything else, grief is very unique to each individual. Although there can be commonalities, my work with clients is to help guide them through their own individualized process. The length and intensity of grief is correlated with the importance of the individual or thing lost. No one can tell you how long you should grieve for or how you should grieve. It should start with self-compassion and self-acceptance for your process. 

Finding A Rhythm

Following the resolution of any trauma or complications to grieving, it is important to find a rhythm for grieving. In the case of a significant loss, you will likely not be able to turn the grief all the way off so to speak. But you can find means for lowering the volume. I encourage and aid my clients in identifying rituals or activities that assist them in grieving, such as attending therapy, spiritual practices, time in nature, journaling, music, etc. These are supports for grieving. 

Because grief can be so energetically heavy, I also have them create healthy distractions. Those things that can potentially diminish the intensity of grief, such as times with family and friends, fun activities, exercise, etc. You cannot just in it or you may end up sinking. It is not beneficial in my experience to engage in what I would refer to as ‘emotional cutting’, particularly if there is guilt or regret associated with the grief. 

Resources For Grieving

Emotions come in energetic waves that need to be completed to tap us into our greatest internal resources and the external adaptive actions they are capable of generating. As difficult as it may be to believe at this moment in time, you can survive and eventually thrive after a painful loss. If you have the relational resources in your life to process your loss, acknowledge your pain with self-compassion and be grateful. 

If your loss has been traumatic, complicated, or you are in need of emotional assistance, please reach out for support. In addition, many of the experiential therapies we utilize for rapid processing of trauma can be an invaluable tool for expediting the grieving process. If you would like support or to learn more about the approaches for accelerating the grieving process, please contact us today.

Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Hawkins Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd.
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: ‪(561) 316-6553‬