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Grief Counseling

We grieve because we love

There are countless reasons that you may be grieving.  Perhaps you have lost someone: a parent, a child, a friend, a pet or a coworker. That loss may be someone close to you or not. The loss may be sudden or gradual. The loss may be the result of death, a break-up, or a move.  But there are also other avenues that lead to grief.

You also may be grieving the loss of a period of your life.  If you are a new parent, you might be grieving the freedom that you enjoyed when you didn’t have the responsibility of kids. If you are woman who is unable to have your own biological children, then you might be grieving that part of you that envisioned have a family with kids that came from your own body.  You might be empty nesters who are watching your last child leave home for college and are grieving all the richness and aliveness that filled your home for 2 decades.

Whoever you are, your grieving is a natural response to all the love and energy that you have devoted towards a relationship.  Again, you are grieving because you love. And your grief is a way for that love to continue, even though that person, or that pet, or that time in your life are no longer there.

You may have heard about 5 stages of grief, put forth by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross many years ago.  Her book, Death & Dying, has been an enormous contribution towards our understanding of grief.  Briefly the stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Yet, be careful with clinging to the idea that you need to go through those stages in that order.  In actuality, grief is a mysterious process that no one knows how it will unfold.  Rather than stages to go through, grief is more a process that needs to be welcomed and honored. You may experience one of those stages, but you also may not.

It comes down to this: there is no way you can grieve that is wrong.  Trust your grief to show you the path forward.  It will show you.

When you are in the thralls of your grief, there’s often the fear that it will be this way for ever.

It won’t.

If you trust the process to happen, you will move through it. And, as a result, you will grow and learn about life.  This is how wisdom get developed.

 

Your grief can come from:

  • death of a loved one
  • divorce/separation
  • abortion
  • life transition
  • kids leaving home
  • a life not lived fully
  • not being able to have kids
  • retirement

How to welcome your grief and honor your loss

How to welcome your grief and honor your loss

  • Start seeing your grief as waves of the ocean

When you allow your grief to become a process to experience rather than stages to get through, then it takes on the organic form of the ocean waves.  Each wave will come to you. Some waves of grief might be small while others are large. In this metaphor, each wave is a feeling. It could be anger, sadness, guilt/shame, joy, or fear.

You can’t stop or fight the waves of the ocean from happening; they will just keep coming. Quite the opposite response is needed.  Same with your grief.  Teach yourself to see your feelings as waves that you can move with, helping them to wash over and through you.

  • Allow the feeling to happen

You welcome your grief through allowing it to happen. Whether there are tears that want to come, or a mournful wail that wants to emerge, or a long, hard run into the hills that beckons you. Your emotions happen in your body.  Listen closely and carefully to how your body is wanting to express your emotions. Mindfulness can be a much needed tool in this. You can also welcome your grief by talking to it as if it were a guest entering in your house. Check out the Rumi poem below for inspiration and instruction on this.

  • Welcome your grief through music, art, and writing

People have been using music, art, and writing for thousands of years as ways to process their grief. You might express and create your own creative work or you might enjoy the work of others. Explore what is natural and right for you. Perhaps you can keep a journal and write poetry. Or take out the watercolors and see what happens.  Or Google “grief and loss poetry” and find out what speaks to you and your grief. The possibilities are endless.

  • Make time and space to grieve

If you busy yourself constantly, then your grief won’t feel safe to emerge.  Try taking a minimum of 30 minutes a day where you are not responsible for anyone nor are you distracting yourself.  Make a grief date with yourself.  Grief likes nature, baths, quietness, walking, water, places with lots of space, or just sitting and watching the world go by.

  • Honor your grief with others

Because we are mammals and have a limbic system, we are wired to grieve together. It can look many different ways: sharing a dinner with your siblings to celebrate and mourn the loss of a parent; a support group for parents who have lost a child; looking through old photos and movies with people who also loved who is now gone.  To witness another’s grief and be witnessed in your own is an instinctual need that must be honored if you are to move through your grief.  And remember, grief isn’t always serious and heavy; it can be full of laughter, irreverence, and joy.

  • Start grief counseling

If you struggle to allow your grief to happen naturally, then you might benefit from seeing a professional counselor. Through providing a safe and open space, a counselor can encourage you to share your experience. There’s a saying that goes, “What you resist will persist.”  If you resist feeling your grief through distractions like drugs/alcohol or getting busy or having too many obligations, the grief won’t just go away on its own.  It will take up residence in your unconscious and will start showing up in other, seemingly unrelated, ways like chronic pain or relationship struggles. Counseling can prevent that from happening.

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Poems for grief and loss

Poems for grief and loss

The Guest House

by Jelaluddin Rumi
 
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
 
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
 
 
 

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

 
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
 
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
 
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
 
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
 
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned
 
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
 
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
 
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
 
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.