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  • The Impact of Grief in Relationships

    The Impact of Grief in Relationships and How to Deal with Difficult Emotions

    Ingrid Ponciano, LCMFT
    Stephany Ponciano, MS, LGPC
    Ever Ponciano, MD

    The passing of a loved one is certainly a trying moment in our lives. In committed relationships (eg. Marriage), it can be a defining moment.  Many couples are unable to surpass the pain for the loss.  Navigating the process of death can lead to high levels of tension, stress,  sadness, or depression.  There are no cliffnotes to help one say goodbye to their loved ones.  Grieving is a process and it is important to know that although the path is never kind to our heart, we can find a way to guide our mind and reach consolation and closure. Having a supportive relationship with your partner can help with that process.  A wonderful nurse named Elizabeth Kubler Ross found that there are stages of grief and loss, by working with the dying in hospice.  There are five stages of grief and loss; namely, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  However, we humans are funny and don’t necessarily travel this road in this particular order, nor do we complete this journey totally on all grieving. These stages are especially confusing when your partner is in a different stage or move through the process faster.

    Regardless, it is important to understand that there is support for you through the path of grieving.  People have support systems available and it is important to be able to reach out to them.  Family, community, religious groups, friends, health, and mental health professionals are examples of systems that can help you through the difficult trail of allowing you to move on. 

    Hospice is a philosophy of care that assists us in the actual moments of dealing with the illness that is leading to the passing.  It is a service that may be offered at home or at a facility.  Many people don’t realize that this is available and helps with caring for our loved ones.  These services can provide respite to the marriage to allow the couple to reconnect in times of pain. Here, patients are cared for by controlling pain, respiratory problems, agitation, and other symptoms at end of life.  However, the effect of hospice is that it encompasses so many aspects.  They have social workers, nurses, nurses’ aids, chaplains, doctors, and others to assist in making the process as dignifying and peaceful as possible.  It is important to become aware of this service and take advantage of it, as this can help tremendously with dealing and preparing for grieving the loss of a loved one.

    Physicians commonly relate that it is natural to be sad, to cry, to miss, and to have a harsh process in the days, weeks, and even months of the passing of our loved one. It is important that you and your partner understand the difference in personalities and how those affect the process.  As we, however, enter a year of this process, it becomes a concern that the natural sadness has become a full blown clinical depression.  It is then that medications and therapy may be necessary to assist us in climbing out of the dark place we might find ourselves in.    

    The journey of loss can be difficult for couples and we respond to the adversity with different intensity.  Therapy can be a way of clearing the fog.  Having a mental health professional can allows us to dig into the deep issues that are making it tough to say goodbye. It can also be a good way to either assist with the treatment of depression from grief and loss or even prevent this.  Lastly, therapy could be a way to help one be able to process the harshness with more clarity and be more capable of experiencing and completing stages of grief. Couples Counseling is also advisable as it will help the couple navigate the journey helping with better communication, better understanding, support and the ability to express their emotions,

    Dr. Gottman created 6 steps to help couples deal with difficult emotions.