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Susan Willis, Ph.D.

(650) 464-7323
susan@drsusanwillis.com

Palo Alto Office:
555 Middlefield Rd, #209
Palo Alto, CA 94301

San Jose Office:
1625 The Alameda, #404
San Jose, CA 95126

(650) 464-7323
LOSS, DEATH & GRIEF
Loss hurts bad. Perhaps there is no pain more raw for humans than the death of a loved one.  It is so final; a life suddenly irretrievable. Alive one minute, and totally forever dead the next.  There is no going back, no second chance, no one more moment. It can be shocking, scary, and way out of our control, whether “expected” or “traumatic.” Then we are left with an empty space. Empty.  Hello grief. Hello sharp sorrow.

While we all have to face loss through death sooner or later, our experiences vary. Our coping styles vary. Our support systems vary. Some of us will move steadily and quickly through the process, often aided by ritual, faith, and community. Others will have deep pain that overcomes us and lingers, impacting many aspects of life—mood, relationships, ability to work, future plans. Some will worry that they shouldn’t feel such deep sadness, because they deem their loss less important than other people’s—such as in miscarriage, or death of a pet, or passing of a long-ill grandparent. Each person’s experience is valid, no matter what form it takes.

Therapy can help you move more steadily through grief. Your grief is important, and the sense you make of it can ultimately deepen and enrich your life. We’ll focus initially on what happened, the role you played, and how it impacted you. We’ll demystify the pragmatics of the situation, if that’s helpful, for example discussing issues involving the hospital, morgue, autopsy, funeral/memorials, burial/cremation, courts, lawyers, wills, relatives, etc. We’ll ask whether there’s anything unfinished that you want to take care of.  We’ll also explore what’s comforting to you now, to help you get through the roughest part. Questions about the meaning of it all and what sense it makes often arise and lead to deeper resolution.

We each first come face-to-face with death at different points in our development. I came to know death relatively early. When I was fourteen years old, my nine year old sister died at home of cystic fibrosis. I was devastated, and the course of my life and that of my family was forever altered. Still, life went on, and I learned many important things from knowing death early. My youthful openness and curiosity invited experiences which formed the basis for a growing comfort and wisdom.  With each subsequent death in my family, I have often been the one who steps in without fear, knows what’s possible, and makes the experience richer—adding sweet to the bitter. My broad and deep familiarity now with death and dying is the silver lining from that early loss.  In my experience, there is a silver lining awaiting you, too. 

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