Grief and feelings of loss are very complicated and very individualized. Grief may occur in response to the death of a loved one or a traumatic loss such as a house fire or divorce. A profound sense of loss can follow an event that to others seems relatively insignificant, such as the loss of an undesirable job or having a close friend move away.

While grief most often produces feelings of sadness and regret, it is not unusual for a person to also feel anger, even toward a loved one who has died. On the other hand, a person may feel relief, as though a burden has been lifted from them, which can then lead to sensations of guilt. The difference between what one does feel and what one’s social community expects one to feel can itself be a source of emotional distress.

The way that grief is expressed varies widely between individuals. Some seek social support while others want to be alone. Some focus on the tasks at hand, like the paperwork that follows a death or the rebuilding after a fire. Others need to process their emotions fully and leave practical tasks for later. There is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss, and there is no right or wrong reason to grieve. It is only when a person is inconsolable and does not seem to be recovering from the traumatic event that therapy may be called for.

Treatment for intractable grief involves both practical changes and support for emotional recovery. Helping people find a new structure for their lives by adopting new routines and new goals for the future is a powerful first step. This can be followed by therapy to address their feelings of emptiness, sadness and perhaps anger or bitterness. Group or family counseling may be helpful in some cases to enlist the aid of others in supporting the grieving individual.

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