Focused Grief Processing

It can be helpful to think of our response to loss as involving both grief and mourning. Grief is the acute response we have to the pain of separation; mourning is the a natural healing process by which we adapt to the changes that come with a loss. There is much work that goes on inside after a major loss: experiencing the pain, accepting reality, find new ways of feeling connected to the person we have lost, and becoming open again to the new life ahead of us.  

Focused grief processing is a brief treatment approach for reducing the lasting pain of being unable to feel connected to a loved one who has died. In two 90-minute sessions on subsequent days, we use standard EMDR to processing the pain of the loss until there is an experience of peace and relief. At this point, most people develop the ability to connect to deeply held, positive memories of the deceased. We then focus on strengthening the connection to positive memories. The ability to access positive memory supports our ability to adapt to the loss and move on in our lives.

This highly focused approach is appropriate for people who have already adjusted to the loss of the presence of the person in their daily lives. It is not appropriate for people who are in the initial shock of the loss; in the early stages of grief, an open-ended therapy is more appropriate and we integrate grief processing into open-ended therapy.

For individuals who have experienced a traumatic loss, the trauma can block the ability to grieve.  Treating the trauma is often necessary before adaptive grief can occur and should take place as soon as possible.  In these situations, focused grief processing is integrated into a more open-ended grief therapy that starts with resolving the traumatic aspects of the loss.