Dr. Gwen A. Finestone, MFT, PhD, CT

Grief and Loss Issues

You don't have to go
through this alone.
Grief or loss can be
difficult enough,
without slogging through it alone.
     Perhaps, it has been just a few weeks or months, since you lost your loved one, and now you find that your well-meaning friends have disappeared.
     Or, maybe, you feel like a burden when you want to talk about your feelings.
    It could be that others around you are going through their own feelings and cannot be there for you.

It isn't weak to ask for help
or support.  
Would you perform your own dental work...
or would you seek a professional?
Yet, that is exactly what we do...
we struggle through alone. 
After all, it's just grief, right? 

     We should be able to handle this by ourselves, right?  
  • We struggle through the endless days and sleepless nights all by ourselves.

  • We stand at the kitchen counter, eating just to live, because there is no one to cook for, or no one to eat with.
  • We pity our pets, who pine at the door waiting for their human to return.  And we empathize, as they wander from room to room searching for their human
  • We think we see our loved one on the street, raise our arm to flag him down, almost call his name, and then realize he is gone.  Dead. We'll never see our loved one, again.  And, once again, the pain is excruciatingly fresh.
Going through this alone compounds your misery and isolation.  
A grief specialist accompanies you on your journey through grief. 
I am your personal guide, your personal teacher, coach,
and mentor.

   Grief can feel unbearable--and we wonder how we'll get through the day, much less how we'll get through the rest of our life without that person.
  Grief is so difficult to endure and live through because the loss of someone significant rips out a big piece of and leaves a glaring hole. 
  Add to that the trauma of loss by suicideor murder, or being present at the time of the traumatic death, and you might be suffering from grief and PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).
Suffering through PTSD by yourself is a recipe for a lifetime of misery. 
Please get help, if you have the following symptoms of PTSD: 
  • sleeplessness
  • nightmares
  • intrusive images
  • "movies" that seem to go on forever
  • Hyper vigilance (being overly aware of your surroundings)
  • a heightened startle reflex                            

Conventional wisdom has it that children don't really experience the loss due to death, and that this is especially true
the younger the child is.  
     It is true that the younger the child is, the more likely it is that s/he will not understand, but that does not mean that they do not experience the loss.

     Normal child development means that the child will personalize the loss.  In other words, they will take full responsibility for what everyone around them is feeling, they will believe that they caused those feelings, and they
will believe that they did something to bring on the loss. 
    And, if all that is not enough, the average child, age 3 to 12,will fill the void left by no information.  To put it another way, if you do not tell your child the truth (at a level appropriate to their intellectual and emotional age), then they will create a story to fill that void.  And, trust me, their imagination can create something far more horrifying than anything you could tell them. 
     Case in point, the 7-year-old I treated, who believed that her grandmother was, and I quote,"In the box, in the ground. It's cold and dark, and she's hungry and scared, and trying to get out." 
    Or the 11-year-old who believed that his grandmother had died because the family brought her home on hospice. If she had stayed in the hospital, then she would have lived. In short, he believed that his mother had killed his grandma.
     Leaving a child to suffer alone with their grief or loss, ESPECIALLY if they don't understand what is happening, has long term consequences...and none of them are good.

If any of these describe your situation or needs,
please seek help: 

Learning how to go through grief.

Pet loss grief support.

Losses due to amputation:
    wrist and forearm amputations
    lower-limb amputation rehab.

Comfort after the death of an       unborn child (e.g., a stillborn child), dealing with the loss of a child (a young daughter or son, or an adult daughter or son).

Surviving the loss of a parent, siblings or others who offered you comfort.

Managing grief when the deceased was a source of pain or suffering.

If abandonment or betrayal played an important part in the relationship.
There are many kinds of loss, 
just as there are
many kinds of grief.
LOSS can be experienced as the result of:  
  • death
  • miscarriage or an abortion
  • being adopted
  • adopting-out a child
  • divorce
  • betrayal
  • surgery
  • amputation
  • mental illness
  • job termination
  • and much more
GRIEF (the understanding that there is a loss) can be experienced as the result of  each of the above circumstances.                

MOURNING (the actual expression of the grief, e.g., crying, melancholy)
is perfectly human.

      Whether you are experiencing GRIEF DUE TO LOSS ISSUES or GRIEF DUE TO THE DEATH of someone (human or fur- covered) you love, I am certified in thanatology (the study of death, dying, and bereavement) and one of my masters degrees is in Counseling Psychology with a Specialization in Loss issues and Bereavement.
Perhaps, I can help.
     When someone significant in our life dies,
they take a big piece of us
with them
...and they leave a big piece of themself behind.
The death of ...
our best friend,
or a  parent who we cherished,
or a longtime lover,
or a high school sweetheart,
or the spouse who changed our life,
or the sibling we raised as our own child,
or the fur-covered person (aka our pet) who was our best friend or child

...who is to say which is the deeper  loss? 
                          Not me. 
I know, and understand,
that every person
experiences grief in their
own unique way      
...and that each loss is
unique to that person.

        If others have belittled your loss ("Seriously? It was just a cat."), told you to "Get on with your life," insisted that you "Let it go," then you have experienced grief American-style.  
Americans have u
nrealistic expectations for how to handle grief. 
  • Employers allow 3 days for bereavement leave and, then, expect you to function effectively at your job. 
  • Friends don't want to reminded of their own past losses, future losses, or their own mortality, so they become distant or absent.
  • And pretty much everyone else says, "Let it go, move on. It's time to move on.
What is mind-boggling to me is how soon they expect the bereaved to


     What does that even mean? Who really lets go?  We cannot truly let go.  All we can do is figure out how to live our life without the person who played such an important role in our life. 

     I will not tell you to let go.  I will, however, help you to learn how to live your life without the loved one present.  And, truth be told, I may even help you to learn how to live your life with the loved one present.

    I won't tell you that you are nuts, if you talk to him at bedtime, or if you feel her presence in your home, of if you press your nose into their robe to smell them, or if you have a ongoing conversations with your loved one.  

    In my career in grief, after thousands and thousands of hours of working with grieving persons, the record for hearing the grossly insensitive, "You have to let go, you have to move on," goes to the young widow (mid-30's) whose friends cleaned out her husband's wardrobe closet while she was out of the house, donated everything to Goodwill, and committed this violation 5 days after the man had died.  FIVE DAYS!!!!  

   Welcome to grief American-style.

  • Disenfranchised Grief is loss that is not honored or acknowledged by others, such as the loss of a gay partner, a longtime companion, or a pet.
  • A sudden, unexpected loss is particularly difficult to process.
  • Loss by a traumatic experience (such as murder or suicide) is the most difficult kind of loss to process. Sometimes referred to as traumatic grief therapy, or complicated grief/PTSD.
  • Loss after 20 years of being with someone brings its own kind of pain, primarily because so very much of our life has revolved around that person, and they fill-up so much of our inner life.
  • Loss with less than 20 years of being with someone arouses feelings of anger and betrayal. After all, you had hopes and dreams for the relationship, and the potential of the relationship had yet to be realized.
  • Compounded grief is a stack of losses, one on top of the other, without resolution or relief.  Sometimes referred to as unresolved grief or unresolved losses.
  • Complicated Grief can result from a suicide or murder, or a troubled relationship.  For example, the loss of a parent or a spouse or partner, who was abusive and with whom you will never be able to find peace or resolution due to their death. Complicated grief can involve the experience of PTSD, particularly if (for example) the dying process was traumatic or the survivor witnessed the murder of the deceased.    



There is no right way to grieve.  

     Grief is an intensely personal experience that is defined by the meaning of the loss.  Meaning is defined within the context of the bereaved's life and how the deceased enhanced (or diminished) the bereaved's life.

     For example, if a person loses a spouse and the spouse was EVERYTHING to the bereaved, then there will be some glaring holes in the bereaved's life. 

     If the bereaved enjoyed being married, or felt that the spouse was his or her reward for a harsh or traumatic childhood, he or she may find feel 
desperately lonely to find another soulmate.  Or, conversely, adamant about not "replacing" the deceased. 

     Some widows and widowers worry about
how soon is too soon to remarry.  The answer to that question might be found in the person's religion (e.g., Judaism teaches that one year and a day is a respectful waiting period), or it might be found in the course of uncovering a person's true needs and values.

     But what about the widow or widower and their
Responsibility for children or aging parents can complicate the process of rebuilding a life after the loss of a spouse. 

How best to deal with these issues
might be determined with the help
 of a trained thanatologist,
or someone who has participated
 in a program of thanatology education.

Change your attitude, change your life.

(714) 658-7488
Office in Huntington Beach, Ca.



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