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March 1, 2018, 10:29 AM

Moving Through the Pain of Grief

Recently in a family session, my client’s mother shared with her daughter on the phone that a close family member had passed away. The client was overwhelmed with grief and cried uncontrollably. I felt the pain and the heaviness that the client was going through.

I believe it was a similar uncomfortableness that Job’s friends perhaps felt when they sat in the ash heap with him as he was covered with sores and losing everything. They could see how devastated he was and how deeply he was suffering. (Job 2: 11-13).  His friends knew the greatest thing at the moment was to sit with Job in silence.

Dealing with grief is a challenging thing to do in this fast pace world. We want things to be easy and quick, but grief does not work that way.  The sadness can be like a dark cloud over us for a few weeks, months, or even years. Also, how one person grieves is different than another.  When we hear of a friend or a family member who lost someone, we do not know what to say so we often choose to not say anything at all. We even unintentionally avoid reaching out to them because of that awkward feeling.

Yet, the greatest thing for our grieving friends is to remind them that they are not alone and that we are willing to stand or sit with them in the midst of their loss.  Here are some tools to keep in mind: 

Encourage those who are grieving to find a way to express their loss. Some may just need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. I have been amazed at how therapeutic it is for someone to write a letter to the one who passed away especially if they were not there to say goodbye. Another effective way is painting.  Art therapy is an excellent way to express sorrow.

Other ways to help those grieving include:

  • Tell them they need to take some time and allow themselves some space to grieve. 
  • Encourage them to look at pictures of departed loved ones and remember times they had together.
  • Remind them to let others know how they can be of help to them.  We all need community around us to face our losses.
  • Encourage them to engage in self-care such as going to a movie, buying something special, and/or indulging in comfort food.
  • Remind them to engage in practices that strengthen their body and mind.  Regular exercise releases healing endorphins. 
  • Prayer is also a key form of spiritual help in dealing with one’s losses. God is our greatest source of comfort and is already familiar with everything that is going on with us. 
  • Make healthy choices regarding alcohol and other drugs. Some who are grieving want to numb themselves, but this could start a negative spiral.
  • Sometimes seeing a counselor is warranted especially if there are wounds that surface or regrets about past decisions.

Everyone experiences grief and loss. We must do everything possible to get on the other side of the pain. 


Curt Spigelmyre is an Associate Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and works as a Family Therapist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.  He serves adolescents and adults who struggle with mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and issues related to trauma. He graduated from Wheaton College with an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy.

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