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Friday, July 11, 2014

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

Grief is something each of us has or will experience in our lives. It’s a crushing, deep hurt that feels like it will never go away. Now to answer the question…the reason grief is so painful is because not only are we flooded with powerful emotions, but our physical bodies are profoundly affected as well.

In addition to mental and emotional pain—which often involves shock, regret, anxiety, confusion and even guilt—our physical selves experience sleeplessness, difficulty breathing, headaches, loss of appetite, digestive dysfunction and more. Think about it…each of these things alone can be debilitating. Now put them all together and it’s not surprising that our suffering is so great.

It’s also important to take notice of symptoms that indicate “abnormal” grieving, or that the grief has evolved into clinical depression. Although everyone has his/her own way of grieving—and there is no “set time” for the grieving process to last—there are things we can look for that may point to serious problems on the horizon.

For example…let’s say it’s been months since your friend has suffered the loss of someone she was very close to. You are surprised by the disheveled way she looks. You are troubled by her increasing alcohol consumption. She is barely able to function or focus on day-to-day activities, often staying in bed for days at a time. In fact, her loss is the only thing she focuses on. It’s obvious she is consumed by hopelessness and sadness. She barely leaves the house or associates with anyone—even her family and best friends.

The fact is that normal grieving lessens over time—not worsens. Without help, a person suffering from some or all of the behaviors described above may become suicidal. Under these circumstances, professional counseling is essential. A trained counselor will help you to gain coping skills and begin to heal. Recovery may seem impossible, but it definitely is not!

OK, what if it’s been three months since your loss, and although it still hurts a lot, you feel you are slowly moving forward. Why is it still helpful to join a grief support group?

When grieving the death of a loved one, we face difficult adjustments—behaviorally and socially, too.

If you (or someone you care about) are grieving, joining a grief support group can help you:

• Understand your emotional reactions and work through these adjustments
• Feel safe to express yourself in a supportive, caring environment
• Learn to practice self-care and manage your life as you journey through the healing process

Remember, the other people participating in the group are in the same boat as you. And although the environment is comfortable and informal, sessions are structured and purposeful. The goal is to empower you to gain an understanding of the grieving process and learn how to cope and move forward in normal, healthy ways. Learn about Samaritan’s upcoming, free Grief Support Group or contact us at info@samaritancounseling.net or 412.741.7430

Feelings of sadness and loneliness due to loss, or heightened anxiety as we try to balance work, spending, travel plans and events are normal. Taking a few moments each day to pray, practice mindfulness, breathe deeply and focus on what’s most important in our lives will relieve those feelings and motivate us to move forward.

But for those who suffer from debilitating conditions like depression, phobias, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolarity and other serious conditions, the solution is not so simple. To make matters worse, people dealing with these issues may be caught up in a cycle of abuse, poverty or severe anger and behavioral problems—within themselves, family members or in the workplace.

Remember—mental or emotional pain is very real. It quite often interferes with daily living, impairing one’s thoughts, decisions, reactions and ability to function.

How do you know if you or someone you care about needs professional help? Sometimes it is difficult to know for sure—especially since the sufferer’s thoughts and feelings are already impaired.

Nevertheless, there are things to look for. Signs of depression include withdrawal, frequent crying, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia or sleeping too long. There are many types of anxiety disorders—and sometimes depression is accompanied by anxiety. People with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) react more intensely than a situation warrants. They are unable to relax; they startle easily and have problems concentrating. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, aching muscles, difficulty swallowing, twitching, lightheadedness and feeling out of breath. Panic attacks cause sudden bouts of sweatiness/dizziness/breathlessness and rapid heart pounding. PTSD symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks, acts of aggression or violence. (nimh.nih.gov)

The things mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose and treat mental disorders. But recognizing that something is wrong and seeking help are the key first steps toward coping, healing and reclaiming health and happiness in your life. Don’t wait. Act now!

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides a wealth of information. Visit www.nimh.nih.gov to learn more.

Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing