Coping with Grief, Bereavement and Mourning

Loss of a loved person

Often when we lose someone or something dear to us, we experience a shattering of our inner emotional worlds. Prior to our loss we base our lives on assumptions, both conscious and unconscious, about how life “should be.” The loss of a loved one places us on a collision course with unrealized hopes and dreams, and consequently we are forced to grieve what is no more and what will never be. A world that once felt safe and open often becomes dangerous and limiting.

Grief is a natural, unlearned process that unfolds in a unique manner for each person. Coming to terms with loss is a journey in which the individual discovers how life can be meaningful in spite of shattered assumptions. However, there are numerous obstacles along the path of grief. Many bereaved individuals struggle with powerful feelings of depression and lack of meaning; fear and loneliness; unrelenting guilt over words said and unsaid, and actions completed and uncompleted; and, deep anger as a result of a literal and figurative abandonment which assaults our conceptions of fairness and order.

Many people progress along the path of grief without encountering serious setbacks. Others, however, encounter painful emotional roadblocks that keep the individual stuck in suffering and discomfort.


How does EMDR help?

EMDR is a powerful tool that can aid in clearing roadblocks so that the bereaved individual can continue to progress on the grief journey towards its natural end: learning to love the deceased person without overwhelming suffering in a state of absence rather than presence. EMDR has the potential to remove emotional toxins that result from painful events during the dying process. When these toxins are removed, the individual is freer to engage in the reconstruction of a meaningful existence in which memories serve to enhance life rather than impede it.

Human beings have the inborn capacity to process disturbing events and feelings. In most instances, the brain reprocesses painful information over time so that it is stored in our normal memory system. In optimal circumstances, the individual can access memories without being unduly stressed. However, there are instances in which the brain becomes overwhelmed and normal processes of problem resolution fail to achieve this desired end. Problems seem to become “frozen” in our minds, and the painful images, thoughts and feelings associated with the event seem to be “locked” in the nervous system, often out of conscious awareness. These memories then have a lasting negative effect on the individuals emotional and interpersonal functioning in the world.

EMDR helps to unlock painful and negative memories, and helps the brain to more effectively reprocess old information so that it becomes less debilitating. The use of bilateral stimulation of the brain via eye movements and sound allows for a resumption of the normal reprocessing so that images, sounds, thoughts, and feelings can be experienced without undue upset and disorganization.


EMDR is not a panacea

EMDR may be helpful after a time of normal grief, and may help resolve a complicated grief process, but it is important to realize that EMDR cannot change reality nor take back any loved person.

For many individuals grief, from a death or a trauma, will become a sacred spiritual process; a time to re-evalute one’s assumptions about the world and the meaning of life, and EMDR may be a helpful tool in making this transition. There is an art to learning to grieve which only comes with time and experience.

EMDR is a powerful technique which can quickly and easily help us enjoy our lives in greater peace.


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