Understanding Grief and Loss

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 9, Number 1

The new year has begun, the holiday season is over, and things are returning to normal. Tax season has started and cold weather has made its visit to South Florida as well as the rest of the country. We hope that you look forward to continued personal growth and have many pleasant adventures this year. We also hope that 2014 is a year filled with satisfaction, accomplishment, and good mental and physical health.

Some exciting changes are on the way. Within the next few months, we will be modifying our website to make it more interactive with blogs from our therapists. We will also be launching our first discussion group, “Dating After 50”, which starts in just a few weeks. We have only a few spots left in this 5 session group and urge you to call quickly if you want to sign up. A new therapist will also be joining our practice. Stay tuned.

In response to a request from a reader, this month’s E-letter, focuses on Understanding Grief and Loss. Our email of the month is about lessons learned from Noah’s Ark and our Ask the Doc question is about indecisiveness. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and comments are welcome.

Practice News


Dating After 50 – Navigating Scary Waters

Join us in February for the first of our exciting Discussion Forums …Dating After the Age of 50. If you now find yourself dating and are in this age group, you may find it to be a stressful and scary experience. The forum will provide an opportunity to meet new friends, find new activities, and feel better about the dating game. Five weekly sessions will be held beginning on Wednesday, February 12th from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Denise Champagne, MS, LMHC will lead the discussions. Please contact Jillian at 954-755-2885 to pre-register. Cost: $60 for 5 sessions, payable at registration. Groups will be limited to only 15 attendees. As there are only a few spots left, we suggest that you call and register quickly.

Research Study. We are continuing to participate in a research study with Life Extension Institute assessing the effects of cognitive therapy, nutritional supplements, and medications on weight management in overweight individuals. Informal results continue to show success for those subjects who are in the study. For more information about the study, contact Jillian, at the above number.

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel who would be happy to answer them.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Our practice is one of the few offices certified to provide the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, it is required by the State of Florida for all parents divorcing or separating even if not legally married. We have provided this course many times and have designed it as a 4-hour, one-session presentation that focuses on ensuring that parents protect their children from the effects of divorce or separation by setting aside their differences and focusing on the children’s need for both parents in their lives. The course also provides information about divorce as loss, gives an overview of the Florida laws and statutes related to divorce and custody issues, and offers information on how children react to divorce based on their ages. The course is offered live on a flexible schedule, based on the availability of those attending the course. Please contact our Administrative Assistant, Jillian, at 954 755-2885 for additional information.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on something in life that happens to us all—facing a major loss. In fact, the death of a close or loved one, a person or a pet, is the ultimate loss. Death is a part of life but our society tends to shy away from dealing with it and rather focuses on youth and vitality. Grief and loss are such unpleasant and hurtful feelings that many people try to avoid them at all costs. However, this is irrational. Because we are humans, we have to ultimately face loss whether it is of a friend, a family member, a loved pet, a job, a dream, a marriage, or of our youth. Some wise people have said that birth is a beginning and death is a destination and how you live in between is what is critical.

Grief is a natural response to a loss. It is a hurtful feeling that happens when someone or something you love is taken away. Any loss can cause grief and the more intense the loss, the more intense the grief. When grieving, a person can experience a variety of emotions and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people will withdraw while others may cry. Some may have complicated grief while others may be stoic. Some may deny their loss while others may be angry. But there are healthy ways to cope with the hurt until one accepts the loss and can move on. By the way, there is no correct timetable.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 introduced the five stages of grief. These include:

  1. Denial which is a disbelief and non-acceptance of the loss
  2. Anger which is the strong feeling that comes from being hurt
  3. Bargaining which is an attempt at negotiating to prevent the loss
  4. Depression which is the sadness that accompanies the reality of the loss
  5. Acceptance which is the peace that comes when one recognizes the loss and adjusts their lives to move on

Not everyone who is grieving goes through all these stages and not necessarily in this order. You do not have to go through each stage to heal your loss. Some may never go through any of these stages. What seems to matter most is your view on life and death and the significance of the relationship with the deceased.

It is natural to feel like you are on a roller coaster because of the ups and downs. You may feel like you are going crazy or in a bad dream. You may also question your religious beliefs. Having an enjoyable time while grieving may create conflict due to a perception that one should not enjoy themselves while grieving. Yet it does occur. Whatever you feel is okay. The common symptoms of grief include shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, worry, and loneliness. Physical symptoms can include tiredness, nausea, weight loss or gain, pains, and insomnia.

In coping with grief, the most important factor is to get the support of others. It is important that you not feel alone during this time. Sharing with others will lessen the burden of your grief. In addition, embrace the comfort that your faith can provide. Participate in spiritual activities and traditions. Also, consider joining a bereavement group to share with others who have also suffered losses. It is also extremely important to take care of yourself. Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Express them in a creative way by journaling. Take care of your physical health by not using drugs or alcohol and by getting enough sleep and eating well.

It is important to understand that loss is inevitable. Coping with small losses prepares us to grieve for the major ones. How you perceive loss and death will affect your attitude about life and your relationships with others. After grieving, you may appreciate people and good times more than ever before. You may see yourself as stronger and more resilient than you thought. You may also be more empathic to people. Recognizing that it is important for you to love and appreciate your important ones and value them while they are alive will help you deal with your grief when they are gone.

We offer the following information on Grief and Loss:

“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief”— Aeschylus

What to Know!

  • Grief is a natural response to loss and is the emotional suffering that accompanies the taking away of someone or something that is loved
  • Grief can occur as a result of the loss of a relationship, sense of safety, health, job, pet, friendship, home, dreams, and finances
  • The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief
  • Since grieving is personal, how you grieve depends on who you are, your faith, your coping skills, your support system, and the nature of the loss
  • There is no time frame for grieving; it takes as long as it takes
  • Emotional ups and downs are normal and must be felt rather than avoided
  • Anniversary reactions are feelings of grief that occur on the anniversary of the deceased death, birthday, holiday, or special day and remind us of their loss
  • The 5 Stages of Grief introduced by Dr. Kubler-Ross include:
    • Denial: People do not believe it is happening at first
    • Anger: People have very strong feelings and look for someone to blame
    • Bargaining: People pledge to do something in return if the loss is stopped
    • Depression: People have intense sadness when the loss is realized
    • Acceptance: People recognize the loss and adjust their lives
  • Common symptoms of grief and loss include shock, numbness, disbelief, profound sadness, emptiness, guilt,  anger, worry, fatigue, weight change, insomnia
  • The grieving process is natural but when a person gets stuck in any one of the steps, it can become destructive and unhealthy
  • Complicated grief or Prolonged Grief Disorder is when the pain of loss is so intense that it prevents you from resuming life and includes intense longing for the deceased, denial of the death, looking for the person, having intrusive thoughts or images, etc.

What to Do!

  • Get support by turning to friends and family
    Embrace your religion and turn to any spiritual activities that are important to you such as praying, meditating, going to your house of worship
  • Join a bereavement support group
  • Accept your feelings and express them in tangible or creative ways
  • Take care of yourself by eating, sleeping and exercising appropriately
  • Do not turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain
  • Do not tell yourself and do not let others tell you how you should feel and be
  • Anticipate anniversary reaction and be prepared for them
  • Stay connected to friends and support meaningful relationships
  • Use cognitive strategies to cope with stress
  • Accept that things can be good enough and that they don’t have to be perfect
  • Think about what is right in life not what is wrong
  • Let go of the old way of doing things and try a new way of doing things
  • Be creative and dare to be adventurous
  • Do what makes you laugh and what you enjoy
  • Seek professional help if you feel like life isn’t worth living, feel numb and disconnected, or can’t seem to get over the loss

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

ZD writes: I have a great deal of frustration at home. I have been married for 19 years and have 2 kids. Lately, I find that I have to make all the decisions at home. I work long hours and come home late. My wife has a part time job so that she can be home and help the kids with their homework. But she can’t seem to decide anything – like what the kids are allowed to do after their work is done or what we should do for dinner. I love her but am quite frustrated that she is constantly asking me to make all the decisions. What do you think is going on here?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies….ZD, from you question, this sounds like it is a recent situation and not one that has gone on since you married her. This would lead me to think that either something has happened or your wife is faced with some type of conflict that is overpowering her decision making skills. Most people who are indecisive are afraid to make the wrong choice because they may fail, they may look bad, or they may hurt someone. It sounds like you may be overworked and not tuned in enough to what is going on at home. I would suggest that you make time to take your wife out for some “couple time”. While the two of you are out, talk to your wife. Find out what is bothering her. Did something happen that has shaken up her confidence in herself? Has she done something that she is afraid to face? Is she feeling overwhelmed? Is she trying to engage you more in home life? Or is it something else? In my opinion, you need to support her and communicate with her to help her get her confidence back.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Jill K. for sending us the following email:

Noah’s Ark:
Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark

ONE: Don’t miss the boat.
TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat!
THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
FOUR: Stay fit. When you’re 60, someone may ask you to do something really big.
FIVE: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
SIX: Build your future on high ground.
SEVEN: For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
EIGHT: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
NINE: When you’re stressed, float awhile.
TEN: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
ELEVEN: No matter the storm there’s always a rainbow waiting.

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till February…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

If you no longer wish to receive future e-Letter reminders, please send an email to drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com requesting to be removed from this list.

If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this e-Letter to your contacts and friends.

Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.