Struggling With Grief
Struggling With Grief
Dear Tacit,

I am struggling with the grief I am experiencing as the result of the death of someone very close to me.  How can I speed up the process?

Signed: Struggling With Grief

Dear Struggling With Grief

Grief is often explained as a reflection of the love/caring that we held in our hearts for the person (or situation) that we have lost.  The more we care about someone or something in our lives, the more it will hurt when that connection or relationship ends.  And when we are experiencing grief, we need to be allowed to mourn.  We need to be able to connect to and release the feelings of loss (sadness, hurt, heart-break, anger, loneliness, etc) that result as we try to make sense of the new circumstances in which we find ourselves.  As we adjust to the change, we try to find a way to live differently.

People grieve the loss of many things.  The most obvious of these losses is when someone we love passes away.  But we can also mourn the death of a beloved pet, or a close friend who moves away, or our children as they leave home, or the ending of a job we enjoyed, or a separation/divorce, or a house fire, or a betrayal by a friend/partner, or the inability to have children, or a shift in our stage of life and/or our physical or mental abilities, or the ending of certain dreams/hopes for our future.

The length of time that is needed for our grieving process is different for everyone, and for every situation that involves loss.  There is no timetable or order of feelings that must be experienced.  We used to think that there were “Stages of Grief” (often attributed to the work of Kubler-Ross) which explained what was considered “normal”.  But what we know now is that there are a great many different emotions and stages of processing that people will go through. There is no way to predict or chart what can be expected.  We just need to give ourselves the time and the support to find our own way through this journey.

It should be noted though that grief is experienced very differently depending upon our age/stage of development.  Children, adults, and seniors all process their loss through a very different perspective.  Men and women tend to grieve differently as well.  It’s important to be sensitive to these unique experiences.

What is perhaps common for everyone is this…

There needs to be time to rebuild.  We have to be able to first accept the loss and changes that result.  It takes time to get past the shock and surreal feelings that initially hit us.   And then we need more time to be able to fathom how things might be in the new reality that we will eventually start to live in.  There is a transition period between these two states of what was and what will be.  And during this period of flux, neither the past or the future seems entirely comprehensible or manageable.  We need time to mourn/release the pain and conflict within, and to imagine a world that could be.

There is no easy way through a loss that we have experienced.  Instead, there is adjustment.  The more we try to ignore, deny or fight against the process of mourning, the deeper the struggle will become (eventually).  We cannot outrun our emotions – they catch up to us, both directly and indirectly.  The only healthy way to process the loss is to feel it – to walk through it.  This can be exhausting and overwhelming; and it can sometimes create compounded emotional reactions, at the same time (layers of guilt, anger, confusion, helplessness, and injustice, to name a few).

Sometimes we need to take breaks with our grieving process.  The feelings may seem to ebb and flow – to come and go.  This is normal.  The human brain (and heart) can only handle so much at once and so, as a protection mechanism, we may experience periods of reprieve between our periods of anguish.  It takes a long time to develop deep caring and want/desire in our hearts. So, it can also take a long time to disconnect from the hope and the vision that we created.  These moments of reprieve allow us the opportunity to fortify and then move forward again, along the loss process.

So, if it is taking you a long time to mourn, understand that this is okay.  Accept where you are at in your own process – don’t compare it to any one else’s journey.  Just give yourself grace – take the time you need to finish the adjustment you are trying to navigate – and reach out for the support that will help you bear the change in whatever (healthy) ways that help.

Take care!

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