As people, we will at some point have to deal with the difficulties surrounding the loss of a loved one. Whether it be our best friend’s grandparent, a great aunt or even a parent, death and loss will eventually touch, or has touched, someone we hold dear. It’s a sad fact of our human condition, yet we can all overcome the overwhelming emotions that come hand-in-hand with loss in our lives. In season three, episode four, of “The Office,” appropriately named, “Grief Counseling,” this heavy topic is broken down and provides comedic insight into how we can all lead a healthy and fulfilling life after loss.
Grieving Comes in Stages
Michael Scott, enthusiastic and fictional regional manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton, Pennsylvania branch, is accurate in his description of the “Five Stages” of grief. These particular emotions (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) will manifest themselves in the mind of someone experiencing the loss of a loved one.
A PsychCentral article, “The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss,” written by Julie Axelrod, explores the fact that most of us experiencing bereavement will feel and internalize these feelings but maybe not in specific order. Some people may remain in one stage of their grieving process for a time before they move on. Other people may never allow themselves to reach acceptance. However, Axelrod’s article expresses how important feeling out and working through each stage truly is. “Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges,” Axelrod encourages. “As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.”
Alyson Curry, a licensed and experienced clinical social worker based out of Plattsburgh, New York, described grieving and the emotions that go hand-in-hand with it to APN via an online interview. “Grief is the internal experience people have after they lose someone or something they love,”she said. Having seen a variety of situations and personalities dealing with loss, she realizes the vast range of possible emotions we feel as humans when our life changes so drastically, so heartbreakingly. Guilt and loneliness are other emotions often strongly associated with the death of a loved one, according to Curry. “Every person’s grief journey is unique and is different in the way every snowflake is not the same,” she states.
Embracing Your Emotions is Healthy and Important
In my opinion, there is no wrong way to grieve, as it is the repairing of our own lives taking place. “[Grieving] is the art of learning how to maneuver through life without a loved one,” says Curry. As the artists of our own lives, we can paint these feelings of grief in any way that works for us. It is our own process. This is where the many coping mechanisms taught by grief professionals can help us to deal with grief as our life progresses.
Grief Counseling (or any kind of support) Can Help Heal
The “Grief Counseling” episode of “The Office” stresses the importance of group therapy, talking about your grief and allowing yourself to let go. Of course, the show presents the topic in a ridiculous manner.
As a grief counselor, Curry encourages her clients to cope with their loss in productive ways. “People cope in a variety of ways such as: talking about their grief mindfulness techniques, deep breathing, writing or journaling, crying, prayer, redirection, staying busy with activities of interest, but most of all, it’s important to give yourself time to adjust,” she states.
Mindfulness, according to Curry, is focusing on the moment you are in, while also recognizing and accepting your emotions. Popular mindfulness techniques include: meditation, listing all things you can see, hear, smell, etc; and mindful breathing, or breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth with each breath lasting around six seconds.
Redirection is another way to positively reinforce your mind. It is the practice of focusing your energy and thoughts on the positive and comforting, rather than lonely or sad, Curry says. Listening to music, drawing and doing schoolwork or pretty much anything else we enjoy doing are all easy ways to redirect the unwanted energy. Curry also suggests writing or journaling, crying, and prayer as coping methods for those of us who are grieving.
People in the grieving process can reach out to many resources for support. Trusted friends and family can be a helpful support system. Religious communities can also offer comfort for someone wishing to redirect their grief through prayer, discussing an afterlife, etc. However, possibly the most effective way we can help ourselves to heal and reach acceptance of our loved one’s absence is certified and professional grief therapy. “Grief counseling is helpful to assist a person to process their loss,evaluate how it has affected their lives,help that individual to adjust to their new life and regain a sense of life satisfaction,” Curry says. She examines the fact that people’s distress during their grieving period can stem from an all-too human desire to to know why their life has changed so drastically or why they are feeling this way.
Death can touch anything or anyone we love; it is indiscriminate in this way. This one, simple truth has been embedded in our minds, and has also greatly affected our lives. Losing someone or something special, whether to tragedy, old age, distance,breakups, or anything else life could possibly throw at us, can elicit a tornado of confusing and scary emotions that can shake even the strongest souls.
Whether we are laughing at the shenanigans or absorbed in the drama found in “The Office”, if we listen and watch closely enough, we can internalize some pretty important messages that the gang is sending our way. Taking the steps to work through our grieving process is essential to healing. “The Grief experience is all about learning how to live without something you had before and how you can make adjustments in life to accommodate for that change,” advises Curry. So talk about it, open up to friends or leave it to the professionals. Channel your energy. Turn what you experience into “good grief”.