We are hyper-connected, yet disassociated. We are always plugged in, but not tuned in to each other. And when a devastating loss happens to us, we don’t always know where to turn: grief is not a great subject for Facebook, and we sometimes have difficulty determining who we can talk to about our loss. We are not encouraged to mourn, making grief even more difficult.
There are many different kinds of loss, including for example:
- Divorce or relationship ending.
- A loss of financial stability.
- A close friend moving away.
- The first child going away to college.
- The loss of homes and / or possessions.
- A miscarriage or stillborn child.
- Losing a limb.
- Losing our health.
These, and more, all bring about a sense of grief and mourning.
We’ll be mainly referring to death here, though each of these events can be just as traumatic as the loss of a loved one.
Factors in Grief
Everyone grieves differently, for various reasons.
How emotionally in touch a person is “normally” before the loss will affect the process and may impact how they experience grief.
Someone who is more in touch with their feelings may be more aware of their grief and less numb to the pain.
Another factor in the feelings you can be experiencing is how we usually deal with pain. For example, do you:
- Make yourself overly busy?
- Medicate by turning to alcohol or shopping?
Or are you able to allow yourself to openly feel the emotion as it arises?
Another factor in the grief process is the relationship with the person who has passed.
What sort of depth of the relationship was there – if there is a very deep connection on multiple levels then it can be much harder to let go.
Or, alternatively, if there was some conflict with the person who died, grief might contain some kind of guilt. “I wish I had said, I wish we hadn’t fought so much” may echo through the mourner’s mind.
There is also the concept of survivor’s guilt in some grief, often in the loss of a sibling or spouse. We ask ourselves “how come them and not me?”
Was there any pre-existing depression or anxiety in the person who has lost someone? That can change the landscape of grief, too, making it harder to find solid ground.
Why Grief Is So Real, And The Way Through It
Any way we come to the grieving process, though, there is no way around experiencing the pain of grief. The only way is to walk through it.
Sometimes people try to keep busy so they don’t feel it.
For example, one client of ours didn’t allow herself to feel the grief of her mom, keeping busy with her kids and her work. Thirty years later, her husband died. Suddenly, all of the feelings that she had never allowed herself to feel resurfaced and she said it felt like her mom had just died.
There is just no way to avoid it. The pain is a natural part of the process.
So How Do We Handle Grief?
- Allow the pain.
- If anger or sadness or any feelings come up, allow yourself to feel it and hopefully release it.
- If tears need to come, let them flow.
- If anger comes up, scream at the top of your lungs. Don’t try to swallow it – close the windows and scream as loud as you need to.
The Truth About Tears
Tears are not just a response to sadness, it’s also our body’s way of releasing some of the pain. People who are more comfortable crying tend to have an easier time releasing their grief.
The Grief Process
The grief process is non-linear.
Despite what we know about the stages of grief, we do not go from one stage to the other and then we’re done.
You can move back and forth between the stages of grief, you can even move back and forth between stages in a given hour.
You are not crazy, although you may feel crazy – it is normal to move between these stages, and it’s all a natural part of the process.
Like An Insulating Coating
Grief can be likened to putting up a coating over everything:
- Nothing tastes the same or seems the same anymore.
- Grief dulls everything and changes favorite activities.
- It’s also very likely that grief can make us forgetful, or prone to tears.
- Often people who previously believed in God, now can be very angry or really question their faith.
- Decision making can be very hard during the grief process – even basic things like what to wear.
Some of our clients have shared different ways in which they feel closer to the person they have lost. They sometimes talk to the person, wear a piece of their clothing, or call their cell phone to listen to their voice. If this helps you to feel closer to the person, it’s encouraged. It’s not crazy, it’s natural.
Often a current loss will trigger emotions from a previous loss. If a parent died a while back, and suddenly a niece dies, even if a person had already worked through the grieving process –it’s as if time doesn’t seem to matter. It often intensifies the current loss.
Sometimes, it is the “first’s” that get us: the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first Hannukah. The first year can be very rough, but for others, we are numb for the first year, and then the second year can be worse. There is no way to know.
Other triggers are hearing a song that reminds you of the person, or the restaurant you shared, or a certain smell. Even seeing two people hugging can be a trigger. Some are obvious, but anything can trigger the emotion.
Any of these things can bring any of the stages of grief rushing back to the forefront, causing us to question our sanity.
Questioning yourself in this process is normal.
How Do We Know When It’s Time To Talk To Someone Else About Our Pain?
Consider the following example scenarios:
- Are you having trouble getting through the day after a few weeks?
- Are you having trouble with basic tasks like taking care of yourself?
- Feeling isolated, as if the people in your life can’t help you and you can’t’ talk to them?
- Do you feel like you’re going crazy?
If you’re questioning yourself, it can be very helpful to seek out a grief specialist. At Nassau Guidance & Counseling, we have many years of experience with all types of loss.
It is our great and sacred honor to help others find a way to speak of their grief, and more importantly, to find a space in which their feelings for the deceased can reside. We encourage you to reach out if you are in need.