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Grief is Not Pathology

Grief is Not Pathology

Grief and loss, whether person or place or part of self, are inevitable. Every one of us will lose someone or something, and every one of us will need to be cared for through it; yet, our culture has no shared language for loss. Grief is a collective experience that feels isolating and lonely.


In her book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, therapist and widow Megan Devine speaks to the complexities of grief from both her professional and personal experiences.


The narrative about grief in our culture is one of stages. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, devoted her career to studying death and loss. She pioneered the theory we have of the five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Kubler-Ross later discussed that these stages were never meant to be understood as linear; however, the culture we exist in has a present-day expectation of a speedy recovery after loss.


Let’s pause and take a look at grief. Devine writes, “Recovery inside grief is entirely about finding those ways to stay true to yourself, to honor who you are, and what has come before, while living the days and years that remain.”


Grief is not pathology and it is not something to “Get Better Soon!” from. However you feel your grief is the correct way because it is a normal and healthy reaction to a permanent change that you did not ask for. What this means is we are tasked with rebuilding around loss, not “getting over.”


Let’s change the expectation of recovery. If you are grieving, approach yourself with compassion. Our natural inclination is to avoid and distract (brilliant, by the way, for those moments it hits you in line at the DMV and it isn’t a good time). In environments and with company you feel safe with, though, let it be messy and nonlinear. Loss itself is messy and nonlinear.


More words on grief –

How to Help a Loved One Process a Miscarriage

How to Help a Loved One Process a Miscarriage

Experiencing a miscarriage can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally overwhelming time for individuals and couples. In this blog post, I will outline four ways you might help someone process their miscarriage. Remember, every person’s experience is unique, so it’s important to approach this process with sensitivity and empathy.


Acknowledge the Grief

If your loved one is opening up about their loss, slow down and listen. Acknowledge the depth of the grief and allow space for them to feel the emotions that arise (perhaps pain, sadness, anger, powerlessness, confusion, and/or numbness). Remind them that it is normal to grieve and that there is no set timeline for how long this process should take. Understand that this was not just a physical event but an emotional one as well, involving dreams, hopes, and expectations for the future.

  • Phrases like “I’m here for you” and “Your feelings are valid” can be supportive during this time.
  • Avoid comments about “trying again” because this can feel invalidating and minimize the significance of their loss.
  • Keep in mind that having a miscarriage can be a traumatic experience. Focus more on supporting them in their feelings and less on probing for details about what happened.


Provide Information and Resources

Empower the individual with knowledge about the grieving process and the physical and emotional aspects of miscarriage. Offer resources such as books, support groups, and online communities where they can find solace and connect with others who have experienced similar losses. Encourage them to seek professional help if they feel it would be beneficial.

Here are some great resources:

Encourage the individual to explore these resources at their own pace, emphasizing that they are not alone in their experience and that there are supportive communities and expert guidance available to them.


 Encourage Self-Care and Compassion

Grieving takes a toll on both the mind and body. Encourage the individual to prioritize self-care activities that promote healing, such as gentle exercise, journaling, meditation, and spending time in nature. Remind them to be patient and compassionate with themselves, acknowledging that healing is a gradual process.


Foster a Sense of Hope and Meaning

While it may seem difficult to imagine at this moment, helping the individual find hope and meaning in their experience can be a powerful step toward healing. Encourage them to explore ways to honor their loss, such as creating a memorial, planting a tree, or participating in a charity event. This process allows them to transform their pain into something meaningful and positive.


Processing a miscarriage is a deeply personal and complex journey. By acknowledging the grief, validating the experience, providing information and resources, encouraging self-care, and fostering a sense of hope, you can guide the individual toward healing and growth. Remember, your role is to offer support, and it’s okay to seek professional advice or refer them to specialized support groups if necessary. Together, you can navigate this difficult journey towards a place of greater understanding and peace.

If you are looking for a therapist that helps folks that have experienced miscarriage, infertility struggles, or postpartum depression, Stephanie Doig is now taking new clients. Reach out now to schedule with Stephanie today!

6 Suggestions for Coping with Grief at Work

6 Suggestions for Coping with Grief at Work

Losing a loved one is one of the most painful tragedies that humans suffer. The impact of this loss is often crushing, and in the aftermath of loss, we often feel like we have no control over anything. Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s perfectly normal to detach yourself from your normal existence to grieve.


But what happens when grief persists when it’s time to return to work? Unfortunately, life responsibilities go on, no matter how sad you feel.


Returning to work while grieving is quite tough! You will need to figure out how to be productive, even as your thoughts are interrupted by waves of grief and remembrance. In addition to your own feelings, you may also need to deal with your colleagues who may start to act differently around you because they don’t know how to comfort you.


You may not be able to control every wave of emotion, or how everyone else acts, but you can make your return to work while grieving a little easier. From dealing with awkward conversations to accomplishing tasks, here are a few tips to help you navigate your work life while grieving.



  1. Have an honest conversation with your employer- Be frank with your employer, and let them know your struggles. Explain that you might not operate at an optimal level for a while. Tell them exactly what you need, so they can help you. Ask for mental health days, work from home opportunities or anything else that you need while you grieve.

  2. Focus on doing- It might be tempting to shut down and do nothing, but trying to be productive and crossing tasks off your checklists can distract you and prevent you from being consumed by painful feelings.

  3. Ask for help- People generally want to help those who are grieving but don’t know exactly how to go about it. Don’t be ashamed to ask your colleagues for help. Instead of insisting that everything is great, tell them what you need. They’d be happy to pick up your workload, so you can focus more on healing.

  4. Create a sanctuary- Find a quiet place to retreat to when things get a little too much, and you just want to have a good cry. It could be your car, or a room where people don’t go into often.

  5. Carry tissues- You might find yourself crying a lot when you least expect it. Keep tissues handy, so you can clean your tears or runny nose when you’re done.

  6. If all else fails, request leave- If you have been at your job for over a year, and your employer has 50 or more employees, you may qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is a federally mandated leave for those unable to work due to a debilitating health condition (yes, at times, the depression that comes with grief can be quite disabling). Medical certification is required to qualify for this unpaid leave–a conversation you’d need to have with your doctor.


Always remember that grief is an important step to healing, in the wake of a loved one’s death. When you get back to work, be honest about how you feel with yourself and others. Don’t try to rush the mourning process. Everyone experiences grief differently. If you’ve lost someone in your inner circle, feelings of grief may last a long time. Be patient with yourself and the feelings that come your way.


It can help to see a grief counselor or therapist if you feel like you need assistance coping with your emotions. It is a sign of strength to ask for support when you are hurting. If you’d like help processing grief or deciding about your return to work, a counselor with Star Meadow Counseling is available to help.

How to Cope with Stress & Loss around the Holidays

How to Cope with Stress & Loss around the Holidays

For some, the “most wonderful season of the year” is anything but wonderful. Any number of things can make this season challenging:

  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Worry about how family members will get along
  • Missing a loved one that is no longer with you
  • Guilt about indulging in holiday foods
  • Financial burdens of the holiday season
  • The gloomy, rainy, cold Pacific Northwest weather
  • Busyness
  • And the list goes on!

For those that are struggling this season, we’ve put together a list of coping ideas may help you get through the holidays with greater ease.



Stress is a major reason why people come to counseling this time of year. Here are some tips for managing holiday anxiety:



Every family has a unique culture and a unique list of holiday “have-to’s.” It is those “have-to’s” that create a sense of obligation, duty, and sometimes dread. Have you ever paused to ask yourself– “Do I really have to?” “Would anything awful happen if I didn’t?” “What are the reasons why I’ve indulged these “have-to’s” in the past?” Weigh out the pros and cons and give yourself permission to evaluate their necessity thoughtfully. Maybe you will still decide to follow through again this year, but at least it will be done choicefully, not from obligation.



Relationship conflict brings tension and anxiety during the holidays. Healthy communication involves two key components: 1) Respect for others and 2) Respect for yourself. If your communication style is lacking in one or the other, you might find yourself adding fuel to family conflicts.

If you trend toward passive communication, you have a tendency to hold back what you are really needing and stay quiet until you reach a breaking point. You tend to say “yes” to everything, only to complain about it behind someone’s back. Attuned family members can tell that you are resentful, despite your best efforts to pretend everything is okay. Be respectful of yourself by expressing your needs, saying “no” when you can, and honoring what you feel. It’s okay to be aware of your needs and say them out loud.

If you trend toward aggressive communication (criticism, snide remarks, put-downs, yelling, etc.), someone else’s needs and feelings might get bull-dozed right over, leading to escalations in arguments and family tension. Help communication move more smoothly by listening attentively. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Try summing up what you’ve heard someone say without judgement.



If you are operating at a break-neck pace to get all of your holiday tasks accomplished, you might be missing out on the beauty found in moments of slowing. Literally stop and smell the roses (or poinsettias). Use your 5 senses to practice being in the present moment. Those with introverted personalities should be especially mindful of taking social breaks during extended family visits. It’s okay to take a 20 minute bathroom break or walk around the block to recharge your social battery.





Many of us look forward to holiday foods all year long. There aren’t many other times of year we make pumpkin pie, eggnog, or tree-shaped sugar cookies! The smells and tastes of the holidays bring richness to the season. Exposure to these foods can be stressful, however, if you have inner conflicts with food or discomfort with your body. If you’re still on the diet-train, this time of year can be especially riddled with guilt and shame with any indulgence. If this yearly battle sounds familiar, now might be the time to learn about Intuitive Eating, a non-diet approach to food that honors your body’s hunger, fullness, and satiety needs. A trained counselor can help you build a healthier relationship with food (and your body) so you can enjoy holiday favorites in a way that respects your body’s needs.



Body movement (AKA exercise) can be an essential stress reliever during the bustle of the holiday season. If you are exercise-adverse, maybe it’s time to re-frame your idea of exercise. What would it be like for you to move your body in a way that feels joyful? Fun? Awe-inspiring? Strong? Or Energizing? Break out of the box and ask the question–When was the last time I had “FUN” moving my body? Maybe you were chopping wood, or hiking the woods at night, or dancing salsa. Whatever it is, put it into your schedule this winter.




If you are enduring the holiday season without someone you love, this season can trigger intense grief, loneliness, and sadness. You might be missing your loved one deeply and the special moments shared together. There’s no quick fix for these feelings of grief, but here are some ideas that might help:

  • Go easy on yourself. You might not have the energy to host, entertain, or go through the motions of all of the usual holiday traditions. That’s okay.
  • Honor the person that you’ve lost. Don’t be afraid to reminisce, look at old photos, cook their favorite holiday meal, or even attend a local “Longest Night” or “Celeration of Remembrance” service.
  • Keep one tradition and add one tradition. There’s no doubting that this holiday will be different from the last. Embrace that and don’t be afraid to try one thing new.
  • Seek professional help. If you aren’t already meeting with a counselor, there’s no better time than the present.

If you’re experiencing stress or sadness around the holidays, a counselor at Star Meadow Counseling is available to help. You can reach us at 360-952-3070 or schedule an appointment online at www.starmeadowcounseling.com