Heartfelt Healing: Conversations on Grief and Growth

Pathways Program: Helping Individuals Healthfully Process Loss and Grief

Everyone experiences mental health challenges from time to time. Some are more severe than others, but all are worthy of attention. At the Pathways Program at Riverside Healthcare, the goal is to help people navigate mental health concerns in a supportive environment.

Here, Roger Hartline shares information about how the program works and who might benefit from it. Specifically, he highlights how Pathways helps people process loss and grief.

Grief Has Many Faces

Grief is an unavoidable experience. We all go through times of loss and grief, whether it’s losing a loved one (even a pet), getting divorced, or being fired from a job. However, each individual processes grief in different ways. With that in mind, it can be difficult to deal with grief in a way that honors oneself while also honoring others.

“I think the best thing to do, especially when it comes to respecting individual processes, is just allowing ourselves to feel how we feel in the moment and then allowing our family and friends to feel how they’re feeling in the moment, too,” states Hartline.

He also reinforces that grief “looks” different to each person. It might involve crying, and often does, but it could also manifest in extreme anger and lashing out.

The Pathways Approach to Loss and Grief

Hartline explains that psychoeducation is a key strategy within the Pathways Program, which prepares clients for mental health success when they leave the program. In respect to grief, that involves unpacking how grief is impacting people in unique ways.

The notion that people move through grief in “stages” isn’t a helpful approach, because it proposes there is a start and end to a person’s grief. A better approach is to help people understand how to process grief in the best way possible—which often involves honing one’s coping skills.

“One thing we say a lot in therapy is don’t practice coping skills when you need them. Practice them when you feel good. Then, when you do feel bad, it’s going to set you up for success,” he notes. “It’s also important to continue to be mindful, often asking, ‘What are my thoughts? How are they right now? How am I expressing my emotions? What am I feeling?’ Checking in with ourselves regularly and asking some of those questions is really going to help us in the future if we experience something related to grief.”

Self-care is also an essential component of processing grief. When loss is new and raw, it’s perfectly acceptable (and normal) to fall off certain self-care routines. Eventually, it’s important to return to self-care. Hartline encourages doing so with the mentality that you’re “giving yourself a break.”

Grief Never Completely Goes Away (And That’s Okay)

Grief may lessen as time moves on, but that doesn’t mean it completely goes away. Anniversaries of loss can bring back feelings, both expected and unexpected. Some people find comfort and support in sharing such anniversaries on social media or in other public venues. Others prefer to keep those dates of remembrance private. There’s no right or wrong answer.

“Finding some kind of ritual surrounding the situation is a really good idea,” suggests Hartline. “If you find a day to be especially hard because it’s an anniversary coming up, figuring out a way to celebrate that day and celebrate that other person, or the loss that you’ve experienced, may make it a little easier to cope with.”

Communication Considerations Surrounding Grief

No matter if grief is recent or many years in the past, communication is imperative—for both the grieving person and those around them. If you’re not processing grief well, it can be highly beneficial to reach out to someone to talk through problematic feelings. In addition the Pathways Program, Riverside also has an intensive outpatient program and partial hospitalization programs through the Behavioral Medicine Program. Another resource is the Community Grief Center with UpliftedCare.

If you’re a family member, friend, or colleague supporting someone who is grieving, be conscious of their communication preferences. Some may welcome a daily check-in, while others view that as being “too much.” Hartline assures it’s within your right to set boundaries.

“In the grieving sense, it could really help that other person feel like the door is open to say, ‘You’re actually overstepping my boundaries a little, and I need time.’”

If you or a loved one is in need of mental health services call the CID at 844-442-2551.