A participant in an overseas workshop sent an email request: 

"A patient of mine, a woman in her 80's, lo"st her son at the beginning of the year. She already took antidepressant drugs, but at the moment she no longer does. However, she still feels deeply sad. What are your suggestions?"

This is what I sent her: 

It is absolutely normal for a mother to grieve her dead child for many more than 9 months. Do EMDR with the trauma around the day he died or the worst parts of the dying process, and the wanting to see him/talk to him and he's still gone. If she feels that should have saved him, do EMDR with the cognitions about that. Otherwise sit with her, hold her hand, look in her eyes and let her know that horrible grief is a sign of the good attachment she had with her son. (My mother took a few years after the death of my brother to start to feel okay in her life. We all still miss him, 21 years later, but no more acute grief.) Let her know it will worse on holidays, his birthday, her birthday, and especially bad on the anniversary of his death. She had at least a 50-year attachment to this child. That's an enormous loss!

Here are some tools for both of you from my writing about grief:

"Normalize the grief experience. explain that people move through the stages over and over. It may be in minutes, on seeing someone who looks likes the loved one on the street, then realizing the loss, again, the anger at self for being mistaken, the hopelessness, again, that the loved one is really gone, and re-integration. or the stages may last for months or years. When clients can identify the stages, they feel less out of control, and see a progression to the process. Move on to the Rules of Grief, normalizing the experience and that our society doesn’t have a realistic idea of the depth and length of the grief process. I often paraphrase Stephen Gilligan: “It is the job of life to make every human being feel every possible emotion at every possible intensity. It is the job of human beings to allow every emotion to move through unimpeded.”

Stages of Grief:  (May occur in succession or over and over.)

  1. Shock and disbelief
  2. Anger and blaming: Self, the one who is gone, doctors, fate, God, et.al.
  3. Sadness, depression, hopelessness, yearning
  4. Integration, alternating with all of the above.
  5. Over the acute grief and still missing your person.

My Rules of Grief:

  1. It always hurts more than you think it should. 
  2. It always last longer than you (and others) think it ought. 
  3. It makes you tired, cranky, stupid or feeling hopeless. 
  4. avoid it and it stays terrible, creates depression and/or useless busyness. 
  5. Feel it all and it gets better