What comes to your mind when you think of the word grief? Most people think of death. Even if you Google it, the listings that come up are related to the emotional response that surfaces from the death of a love one. There is very good information and help out there related to that topic. So the purpose of this article is to talk about the silent discounted grief that is part of our daily life but we don't even know is there for the most part. Believe it or not we all grief since we are born and our emotional health depends on grant part on the mastering of this process. We all hear the word grief here and there but even people who are in the midst of the process don't know what the word grief means or what the process really involves. The English word comes from the Old French grève, meaning a heavy burden. This makes sense when you consider that grief often weighs you down with sorrow and other emotions that can have both psychological and physical consequences.
There are many unconventional situations that produce grief reactions and most of them are just part of being alive. Judy Viorst in her book "Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow" talks about most of them in great depth. She mentions how since the moment that we leave our mom's wound we experience our first loss which is necessary to being alive. Why? Because loss is not a one-dimensional process. When we loose we also win but sometimes the pain from the loss might blind us from seeing the winning aspect of it.
Everyday we confront different and many type of losses - loss of independence, loss of a loved one, break ups and divorces, loss of security when we move to a new place or loose a job, disappointments, pervasive loss of one's personal sense of well being and adequacy. . . so forth and so on. Even each positive stage of life carries on a loss, going to college, getting married, having a baby, retiring...just to mention a few. So if we can look at grief, sometimes, in a different way, as an essential part of living and growing, we could start understanding and accepting grief as a normal part of life. Here some tips to help you cope with it:
Like with any sad or uncomfortable feeling or part of life, our reaction might be to try to run away from it. With grief the same happens. Contrary to what we do, it is important to understand that it is better if we welcome and try to go through it. "Easier said than done," you might be thinking but you just can't go around it. Grief is a process and you have to move through it to come across the other side.
Be careful with judgment and allow all your feelings to come up. Since judgment is part of being humans we tend to classify feelings as good and bad. While grieving something or someone, try to stay away as much as you can from judging what you feel. Just feel it.
Be patient and give yourself time. When there is a change it takes sometime for our internal worlds to adjust to a new reality. Grief requires adjustment and is a healing process. Notice the word process, which means takes time. Even though it doesn't feel good, it is invaluable for the redefinition of our core self.
Allow yourself to have fun. Sometimes because something bad happened we don't allow ourselves to have some joyful moments. Why? Because we tell ourselves that might mean that we don't care or that we are bad people. Judgment again! Well, let me tell you that the human nature has the amazing capacity to tolerate or do more than one thing at the same time. So you can be grieving and can fun at the same time.
Surround yourself of familiar things and faces. A change increases uncertainty and vulnerability so the more you can be around routine and all time friends and family members the better.
Tolerate the discomfort and hang in there. Try to do it without resorting to substances or unhealthy behaviors. Knowing your coping style when under stress might help you to know what to do while grieving. Easy recipe to follow: do exactly the opposite. Eg. If you tend to eat, try to exercise; if you tend to isolate, call a friend, if you try to overdo things, try to relax etc.
Do not compare yourself to others. This is an easy trap. Because we know other people that went through a similar situation we push ourselves to heal as other did. Celebrate your uniqueness and allow yourself to have your own process.
Keep in mind that grief is about remembering while attaching to something new. It is not about forgetting the past but it is about finding a way to keep people, places or experiences as part of who we are but being able to look into what the new horizons offer to us and see the beauty of it.
Ask for help if necessary. If things get out of hand, the pain becomes intolerable for too long or adjustment doesn't happen, do not hesitate to ask for professional help. Sometimes friends and family mean well but they don't really give you the best advice.
As Karen O. Johnson MEd, founder & CEO of Everyday Life Grief Consulting says: "Life is made up of loss and it needs to be accepted and addressed to survive it in a healthy manner. Transforming the shattered dreams of grief can be a painful, but illuminating experience." And remember that there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss (regardless of its nature). Our grieving is as individual as our lives.