What is grief? And, why do we feel so hopeless managing our grief when it arises? Why does it feel so isolating and life shattering?
I identify grief as a loss which has had a significant impact on your life and wellness. This can include the loss of a pet, a job loss, a significant life change (such as a new disability) or the physical/emotional loss of someone significant in your life.
Despite the first question often being, “Am I grieving the right way?”, there is no “right” way to grieve. Grief takes effect in many different ways depending on several different factors. What kind of loss have you experienced? What was the relationship between you and the person you lost like? Was it supportive? Was it abusive? Is there guilt surrounding the loss? What is the impact of the loss on your life right now? Is it impacting your health? Your relationships?
Many medical systems still practice the Stages of Grief Theory, which identifies different emotions or feelings with a time period or, as an organized step by step process. This is not what I believe is the case for many people. Grief cannot be wrapped up into a pretty little box. It is complex and can feel overwhelming because we are never really taught how to manage it. The emotions tend to be large and unknown territory as in Western Culture, emotions tend to be shamed.
Our society makes us feel as though we must continue to be “functional” while grieving. That we should only need a certain number of days to grieve the loss of someone or something. It dismisses all of the complex factors associated with healing and moving forward AS you grieve.
One of the practices I encourage in therapy is engaging in the emotions that arise for you that are associated with the loss. Whether it be sadness, anger or bewilderment. I encourage talking about the loss, talking about memories, talking about what life looks like moving forward from the loss. Slowly, I encourage a sense of acceptance (has anger arisen for you as you read that word? Where do you feel that emotion or any others that have arisen?). Acceptance of how life will be now – acceptance of the loss being beyond your control – acceptance of being able to let yourself heal and move forward.
Therapy can be a helpful part of healing from grief and loss.