What Is Grief?
Grief is the acute pain that accompanies loss. It is deep, because it is a reflection of what we love, and it can feel all-encompassing. Grief can follow the loss of a loved one, but it is not limited to the loss of people; it can follow the loss of a treasured animal companion, the loss of a job or other important role in life, or the loss of a home or of other possessions of significant emotional investment. And it often occurs after a divorce.
Grief is complex; it obeys no formula and has no set expiration date. It is an important area of ongoing research. While some experts have proposed that there are clear stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—many others reject this structure and emphasize that grief is a highly individualized emotion and not everyone will grieve the same way.
Grief is sometimes compounded by feelings of guilt and confusion over a loss, especially if the relationship was difficult. Some individuals experience prolonged grief (also known as complicated grief), which can last months or years. Without help and support, such grief can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness.
Many of the symptoms of grief overlap with those of depression. There is sadness, and often the loss of capacity for pleasure; insomnia; and loss of interest in eating or taking care of oneself. But the symptoms of grief do tend to lessen over time, although they may be temporarily reactivated by important anniversaries or at any time by thoughts or reminders of the loss. Unlike depression, though, grief does not usually impair one’s sense of self-worth.
Source: Psychology Today
CBT for grief
The goal of CBT is to help the bereaved reconcile the death of their loved one, which involves giving them permission to grieve whilst also guiding and supporting them as they build a new life for themselves. Most bereaved individuals who present for help need to:
Be able to tell their story over and over Express their thoughts and feelings repeatedly Attempt to make sense of what has happened Build a new life for themselves without the deceased.
Many of the CBT strategies that are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression, such as graded exposure to avoided or feared situations, increasing pleasant events and challenging unhelpful thoughts, can be modified for working with bereaved people (Kavanagh, 1990). Strategies which focus on increasing the sense of control and wellbeing can help facilitate adjustment.
CBT is an effective model for working with bereaved people because it provides a framework to understand their experience, identify barriers that they may be facing, and to develop strategies to increase their sense of control. It can easily be modified for short or long-term therapy and also has great potential for group work.
Source: Sue Morris, Australian Psychological Society.