Navigating Grief from a DBT Perspective

Navigating Grief from a DBT Perspective

Complexity of Grief

We recently read this excellent article about the complexity of grief. The article touches on the different ways that grief can manifest, as well as a concept called dialectics. As this article notes, grief can be incredibly difficult.

It can come in waves, and be a response to a sudden loss or a slow decline over time. We can feel it for those we were incredibly close to and those we had strained or distant relationships with. It brings many emotions with it, and some of them may seem incompatible with each other.

But the truth is that many emotions can and do coexist. For example, we can feel relief that someone isn’t suffering anymore, and also miss them deeply. We can resent someone or hold anger towards them, and also love and miss them. And these emotions are a testament to our connection to each other and the world around us.

What is Dialectics?

Dialectics is the process of holding multiple truths or views at once, even if they seem incompatible. Taking a dialectical approach to grief and allowing ourselves to feel multiple complex emotions can be incredibly helpful. Here are some examples of Dialectical statements you might express during grief:

  • “I really miss my dad right now. We didn’t have the best relationship, and I feel angry at him and wish our relationship was different. I think I blame him for a lot of things. At the same time, I love him and know he tried his best, and it hurts me that we didn’t get to build a better relationship.”
  • “My mom passed away recently, and I miss her so much. She was sick for a long time, and by the end she was in a lot of pain and wasn’t really herself. It was really hard to watch, and taking care of her was really exhausting, so a part of me is relieved that she’s not suffering anymore. But I still wish she was here.”

Increasing DBT Skillsets

Even outside of grief, being able to sit with multiple emotions and accept them can help us process anxiety, depression, anger, and sadness. Dialectics is the core of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), where patients are taught to identify, understand, hold, and manage multiple emotions at once without judgments which tend to intensify pain. The result is a healing and emotionally healthy way of interacting with the world and ourselves.

At the Youth and Family Institute in Los Angeles, we approach every session with dialectics in mind. We teach and practice skills to balance the dialectic of acceptance and change in ourselves and our relationships. You can find more resources about our services and DBT here. If you want to get started with us, you can schedule a consultation.


‘We are a grief illiterate society’: A psychotherapist on how to navigate loss in an era of excess” – Published for by Mary Elizabeth Williams on August 20, 2023. Read Article


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