Therapy, Bipolar and Grief




I believe that therapy is an essential part of overcoming our bipolar disorder. One area where therapy is essential to bipolar sufferers is in grief and grieving.

Grief, bereavement of a loss, is normal. No matter if that loss is a loved one (spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, grandparent), a job, a boss, material possessions, a pet, aspects of our lives lost due to this illness, abuse or trauma. No matter the loss we need to recognize it and we need to grieve that loss or losses.

There are three things that bipolar disorder affects regarding grief, firstly this illness hides or twists the things that we need to grieve, like the aspects of our lives we have lost due to this illness along with any abuse and trauma we may have suffered.  We need to grieve the loss of jobs, friends, relationships. We also need to grieve the things our bipolar disorder has taken away, like our ability to think, remember and focus. Secondly, because of severe loss, the loss of loved one, pet or career, even the loss of who we once were, bipolar sufferers are more likely to fall into abnormal grief than most others. Our illness causes us to revisit, or even live directly in, the past. Thirdly, that many symptoms of grief can be compounded by our bipolar symptoms.

Normal grief is a process of reconciling ourselves to the loss we have suffered.

Abnormal Grief according to the DSM 5, “Lasts longer than 6 months, the person must yearn the loss on a daily basis or to a disabling degree. At least five of the following symptoms must be present; Emotional confusion about one’s role in life, Difficulty accepting the loss, Avoidance of anything to do with the loss. Inability to trust others since the loss, Bitterness or anger related to the loss, difficulty moving on with life, Numbness since the loss, feeling that life is meaningless now, feeling stunned or dazed at the loss

I suffered from abnormal grief for over 25 years and coupled with my bipolar disorder it destroyed my life. The trigger for change was the death of my 22-year-old cat, it proved to be one loss too many. I sought help with a qualified grief counselor.

The losses I suffered haunted my mind, most daily, the rest regularly enough to make me unable to function.

One of the main things that my therapist needed to do was to explain and help me separate the symptoms of bipolar disorder and the symptoms of the grieving process and to see how my bipolar contributed to my abnormal grief.

Bitterness and anger are part of the grieving process, however that bitterness and anger is meant to pass. This is a normal grief symptom but if that feeling lasts longer than a few months it is abnormal. One of the symptoms of bipolar and a major part of my disorder is a long-simmering irritability and rage—angry outbursts lasting over several days, during both manic episodes and agitated states of depression.

Numbness, feeling that life is meaningless, feeling stunned or dazed are also symptoms of bipolar and of grief.

It took two years of almost weekly sessions and a lot of work on my part to grieve these losses in a healthy way and put them in their proper place, the losses in the past and me in the present. During those two years, many losses were found that also needed grieving, these are the losses that my bipolar brain told me were of no importance or had twisted into complete fabrications that had nothing to do with reality. They turned out to be very important and I ignored acknowledging and grieving them at my peril.

Today I am living in the present, not in the past and I am no longer haunted by the what’s, if’s and whys, the blame and shame, of the losses that I have suffered. I acknowledge that they happened but I no longer live there.

Look for your losses that keep you in the past and learn to grieve them, in this area we usually need help so talk to your therapist and if necessary find a specialized grief counselor.

What we need to separate is our bipolar disorder and that fact we need to grieve our losses.

As a bipolar sufferer, we have symptoms and an illness that are not going away.

As a griever, you are not broken and do not need to be fixed. You need to learn that grieving is a natural part of living, but it is not a permanent state. Yes, loss happens and we need to grieve, but the real grieving process ends in recovering from the loss and living again.  Grieving is meant to be a short process not a way of life.

Our battle is with our minds, not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Remember our battle will always be with our minds and our minds alone.

The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”

I say,” Work harder on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.


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Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. Each week I attach a blog written by someone else that I found interesting that may inform you as well.  This is another author’s work I am just attaching their blog for you.  I hope you enjoy this week’s Blog created by Gabriel Nathan

Book Review: An Urgent, Bold Voice Emerges from the “Manic Kingdom”


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