Silver Lake Psychology COVID Grief and Trauma Support Services
With the number of COVID cases at 1.6 million in Los Angeles, many family members are experiencing the stress and trauma of witnessing their loved ones suffer and some are experiencing the loss of a loved one. Because of the scale of this loss, our team of licensed clinicians will be offering a series of grief support groups and personal counseling for grief, trauma and stress.
How to Cope with Loss? Where to Begin?
Grief is a journey. Of all the human emotional experiences, grief is particularly disruptive. Grief is big. It is a tidal wave.
It is understandable that people try to avoid the experience of grief; not wanting to be subsumed by it. One client said to me, “I refuse to sit down and cry because I know I’ll never stop.”
Many people try to repress grief, so they get through daily routines or social interaction. Yet, grief wants attention. It pushes against our repressive tactics with insomnia, panic attacks, intrusive memories, and unbidden tears in the middle of your workday. If your repressive tactics prevail, you may settle into a teeth-clenching numbness.
What happens if you give grief the attention in longs for?
You will feel--deeply and profoundly-- the nuances of grief. You may feel sad, peaceful, loving, fragile, tender, angry, guilty or fearful. These feelings do not happen in predictable stages. There are sudden waves, unconscious triggers and lots of dreams. One day is painful and another is peaceful. This may sound like an out of control, roller-coaster kind of experience, but is possible to shape your experience with grief and intentionally pursue emotional and spiritual growth. The grief process in an opportunity to create meaning by exploring life’s biggest existential questions: what happens to us when we die, what is the nature of consciousness and how do I live my best life.
Of all human emotions and experiences, grief is one of the most worthwhile.
Here’s how to get started:
Create a physical space to allow yourself the privacy to experience this fullness of your grief. Make a refuge for yourself, a space to give grief attention and to honor your loved one. Bring a journal, a candle, photographs, or other items that will help you create meaning.
Approach your emotions from a place of curiosity. Investigate what the grief experience is all about—and notice the transiency of the myriad feelings.
To experience grief in its purest state, set aside your narrative about the death of your loved one. Take judgmental thoughts such as ‘It shouldn’t have happened to him’ or ‘she was too young’ or “If I had only,” and set them on the shelf for a bit. These stories add weight; they complicate the purity of grief experience.
Sit in silence. Allow creative expression through writing, song or movement. The goal is to give the feelings space to emerge and be seen.
Allow the heartbreak. Place your hand over your heart. Breathe and rest your awareness on your heart. Notice the connection between grief and love. Take a moment to appreciate that you love someone. Deeply. Feel the aliveness of your heart.
Extend compassion toward your own wound. One woman described it to me as “I felt like my soul was shot through, mortally wounded, as if I was walking around disabled even though I appeared functional on the outside.” Wounds need care. Imagine enveloping the wound in loving-kindness. Hugs also help. I’ve noticed that untended wounds can lead to irritability, anger and cynicism. The role of comfort in healing from any kind of emotional trauma is not to be underestimated.
Allow the emptiness---the absence of your loved one has its own sensation. One client described it, “a negative space, a black hole, of deep emptiness where there was once a great fullness.” This is one of the most difficult experiences of grief. I noticed that my clients would grasp at anything to avoid this gaping vacuum: manic busyness, alcohol, sex, etc.
Allow the emptiness. In a form of exposure therapy, sit with it for twenty minutes and observe how the emptiness rises, falls and then passes, often followed by a new sensation. Rather than be afraid, repeat to yourself, “This is what the universal experience of emptiness feels like. Other people feel this too.”
Allow distraction: Grief can be pre-occupying. Just as you create an intentional space for grief. Create a space for noticing what else is happening in the world. Notice your garden in the sunlight, the taste of good food, the sound of children laughing. Our daily routines are grounding.
Allow vulnerability. Conversely, grief can have a heart opening effect. Being in touch with the love you had for the departed, can fill you with the fullness of love. One of my clients shared that she felt more loving and kinder toward others. Another described feeling fragile and vulnerable—but she felt strangely more alive than ever in these moments.
Grief can be isolating. It’s not exactly dinner party conversation to bring up the flashbacks of watching your loved one suffer, or the guilt you feel for unsaid last words. It’s tempting to hide your grief and play normal. Yet, vulnerability helps others to connect to us. That raw, fragile feeling stirs a natural empathy in others and is likely to give people a sense of feeling close to you.
Don’t let your grief create a divide between yourself and others. Of course, you feel different than your seemingly happy, whole non-grieving friends, you’re in a radically different mindset, that’s why a grief support group is a good idea.
What are Grief Support Groups and Personal Grief Counseling?
A grief support group is a great space to share your unique experience and to witness the universality of grief. Connections with other grievers can bring back a sense of vitality to a beleaguered spirit.
Personal grief counseling is also a great idea. Personal grief counseling is an opportunity to have someone walk alongside you for the entire process of your grief experience. A grief counselor will be witness to every unique feeling, will seek to understand the complex relationships and family dynamics that contextualize your grief experience and will have an eye toward how you can grow and develop as a result of your experience with grief.
To make an appointment with a grief counselor or to join a grief support group, click here:
Dr. Engler's Articles on the Huffington Post:
Should You Get Pre-marital Counseling?
Women's Health Magazine interviews Dr. Engler on the factors to consider.
Why Moving in Together Kills Your Sex Life, and What to Do About It.
Men's Health Magazine interviews Dr. Engler about how to improve your sex life, and reviews her book, "The Men on My Couch."
11 Things That Actually Surprised This Sex Therapist.
BuzzFeed reviews Dr. Engler's new book, "The Women on My Couch."