Are the fear, sadness, and anxiety many of us are feeling lately actually symptoms of complicated grief?

The last 12 months have piled on so many additional stressors that it can leave even the most self-aware of us reeling from the dire emotions of complicated grief. This onslaught of uncertainty and unexpected fear-inducing news or situations may have even left some of us with difficulty regulating our emotions. 

So that we're all on the same page, let's look at a working definition for "complicated grief".

COMPLICATED GRIEF: Very intense, prolonged grief (6 - 12 months or longer) related to one event or group of related events, or grief compounded by a series of grief-invoking related or unrelated events. 

"Normal" grief in response to the death of a loved one generally affects mourners temporarily, and the majority of survivors gradually feel the characteristics of grief dissipate with the passage of time and can begin resuming their natural routines and activities. Some people, however, might experience complicated grief in which the usual responses to the death of a loved one do not fade over time and can impair or prevent them from leading their normal lives." says Angela Morrow, RN in Very Well Health.

Let's look at a few examples of situations when complicated grief may manifest. Complicated grief can be undeniably overwhelming.

Just a word of caution:  When dealing with a grieving person, we must refrain from judgement. Focus only on caring for the person with the love of Christ.

Case #1 - Grief caused by losing several loved ones to Covid-19 and the resulting chaos their sudden absence leaves while you are dealing with your own life situations and lack of support during social distancing.

Case #2 -  Losing your job because the company closed, leaving you stressed and unemployed with so much resulting strife in your life that your marriage breaks down and your spouse leaves.

Case #3 - Feelings of betrayal from those you believed were supposed to protect you, resulting in great uncertainty, anxiety and fear from the loss of everything familiar and safe. This added to prolonged fear about world wide health issues.

Case #4 - A beloved pet dies, followed by a sibling's tragic death, followed by estrangement of family members.

These are just a few of the contemporary grief scenarios. And these must be resolved if the person is to regain their quality of life.

What do you do when your client is struggling to make progress after experiencing loss in his or her life?  How do you restore your client's joy?

The coaching process itself, may lead a client to and through the feelings from loss. For example, if a client discovers in the coaching process, that the right thing to do is move across the country to take an important job promotion, creating a breakup or long-distance relationship, there will no doubt be a period of grief.  Saying goodbye is hard!

Saying goodbye is hard.

Saying goodbye is hard.

In life we are frequently challenged with choices. There’s usually a trade-off. Sometimes we can’t have it all. It is the coach’s duty to help their client make transitions as easily and smoothly as possible, with as little pain as possible.

Even with the best skills and intentions, there are times pain is unavoidable.  

Are you prepared with the tools to help or will you end up losing the client?

Traditional thought is that grief happens when we lose a loved one. But there are countless other types of losses as well and each can cause its own variety of grief. Here are a few more examples:

· Relationship / marriage breakup

· Loss or death of a beloved pet

· Loss of a job

· Loss of one’s health

· Business failure

· Poor choices made by your child leading to negative consequences

· Natural disaster

· Incarceration of a loved one

· Foreclosure of a home or repossession of a vehicle

· Moving to a new city and state … hence loss of everything familiar

There are lots of types of losses and they can sometimes overlap so this is just a small sample. It is inevitable that your clients sooner or later will be dealing with loss. Do you have the skills to help them overcome their grief?

“However, when grief does not get addressed and is
instead repressed, it can transform into depression.”
~ Leelo Bush PhD

Seldom do we acknowledge what they are really going through unless perhaps, we have been there. Often we don’t want the conversation to remain on the subject of loss and we move to another topic as soon as reasonably possible, as though ignoring it will make it go away. It may for us but likely not our client.

Many of us glaze over these situations in conversation because we don’t feel equipped to help them in a real, tangible way. And sometimes frankly we fear it will be emotionally too difficult to listen. But this is largely because we ourselves don’t know how to handle loss.

Meanwhile your client remains un-helped and unable to navigate their new reality. It is not unusual for a client to stop working with you until they think they can handle moving forward again. But usually they don’t return because the client’s perception of your effectiveness has been greatly reduced.

Those who are unfamiliar may assign their client’s symptoms to depression and recommend therapy or antidepressants but in the best interest of your client, grief and its accompanying loss shouldn’t necessarily be dealt with in the same way as clinical depression.

Grief emotions are what we feel when we are forced to say goodbye but we don’t want to. They are natural emotions and signal a need for us to address them. However, when grief does not get addressed and is instead repressed, it can transform into depression. We now know how to control grief. We should not let our clients fall into depression only because we are not prepared to help them address the grief.

Most coach or counselor education doesn't prepare us for the times when clients experience grief or loss in their lives, unless we are specifically trained in this area. Society surely does not teach us. What’s more, telling someone “just give it time”, may be the absolute WRONG thing to say.

God's solution for grief:  During my study and preparation to create the Joy Restoration Coach certification course, I discovered that it doesn't matter what's causing a person's grief, God's solution is the same. Sometimes we complicate things as humans, when God's plan is much simpler and more powerful.

More help for complicated grief

A grieving person isn't sick or broken. Because grief is not an illness, rather a person's reaction to and thoughts about a situation, it's generally possible to use specific coaching skills to help your client.  However if you're concerned about clinical depression or PTSD/CPTSD or related issues, it's important to refer your client for professional treatment for complicated grief.

IMPORTANT: Christian coaches and counselors do not diagnose, rather refer the client to health care professionals.

In the Joy Restoration Coach certification course, I will give you ways to evaluate whether the client is ready for coaching. If you and your prospective client agree to begin coaching, I've listed additional strategies below that can help your client cope before, during and after your coaching relationship.

1)  Share stress relief skills. Grief is stressful and emotionally exhausting. It can lead to depression, adrenal fatigue, unhealthy eating or other behaviors. (In-depth Stress Relief Coach training and certification can be found at https://pccca.org/stress/.

2)  Remind your client about self care. Suggest they get plenty of rest, eat healthy and take time to exercise regularly as well as participate in relaxing activities. It is well known that movement helps relieve stress, avoid depression and calm anxiety.

3)  Suggest your client reaches out to a trusted faith leader. As a Christian coach or counselor, you should be able to provide additional faith support as needed.

4)  Recommend they connect with people when possible. Suggest your clients spends time around people they enjoy when possible. Some areas may still have restrictions from the pandemic so caution should be exercised. 

5)  Suggest smiling and laughter. Both smiling and laughter trigger positive physiological responses by producing feel-good hormones. 

6)  Participation in a support group. In time the grieving person may welcome connecting with others who have shared similar experiences to find comfort and build new relationships.

7)  Help your client plan for holidays and special dates. These times can trigger painful emotions with memories from the past. Suggest they create new traditions for celebration and look for ways to reminisce that provides comfort.

8)  Turn off the media. This includes TV, print and radio news, social media. We can't change anything by observing what we're told. We don't even know for sure if it's true. If necessary, ask someone you trust to share updates ONLY on a critical, need-to-know basis. This will give needed time to become centered and calm again. But if you return to it and feel your heart rate increase, back away. We owe it to ourselves and loved ones to prioritize our wellbeing.

Training in the area of grief has changed dramatically in the last few years with the introduction of my Joy Restoration coach training. If you were trained in the traditional way such as Grief Share or similar programs, there are much better solutions today.

Unfortunately these life experiences are unavoidable and if we have compassion for our client, we want to help them recover from these events as easily and swiftly as possible. Now with Joy Restoration techniques, clients recover often in a matter of months rather than years as before.

Consider the gratitude and quality of life your client will experience when they again feel purposeful, joyful and fulfilled.  It is priceless.  And that explains why this coaching niche is desperately needed and lucrative.

"... You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy."
~ John 16:20

Please share your comments or questions in the section provided below.  My readers and I would love to hear from you.

© 2021 Leelo Bush PhD. All rights reserved.

Become a Joy Restoration Coach

With all the challenges we face, it's important to talk about this topic now. Why not learn how to help others navigate these times with joy and peace as well as discover how to help others at the same time?

It may surprise you to know that the Joy Restoration course offers TWO certifications and a license to offer my 7 Step Happiness by Choice process. Learn more at https://pccca.org/joy/

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments