Although grief is largely associated with death, it is not only defined by that. It can also be found during the end of a relationship, a serious health issue, losing a job and so on. What these all have in common is a sense of loss. Where there is loss, grief is never far behind.
As grief signifies the end of something, how we perceive that will impact our experience of it. Although there are 7 stages of grief, there is no set formula on how we track through it.
The stages loosely defined are: Denial, Anger Bargaining, Depression, Upward Turn, Reconstruction and Acceptance. You might begin with denial, stay there for months and then move straight to acceptance. Or you may just be angry, move into denial and end up being depressed for a year.
There is no right way, there is no timeframe and there is no quick fix.
For whatever reason you are going through this, acknowledge yourself for facing into it. Grief at its worst robs you of life. It can take away the reason you get out of bed in the morning and destroy any happiness you ever felt. It tends to comes in waves: at times threatening to descend and overwhelm you, at others small gentle surges, just lying quietly at your feet. Wherever you are in the grief cycle, whatever you are feeling is perfect for right now. There is no easy answer, but you will find a way through this. Your way.
Although I have suffered much in my life, it took me a long time before I nailed the grieving. The truth is It took me a while to recognise that not only was I not nailing it, I was also living in huge denial about it. By hiding it and pretending it wasn’t there was just prolonged the pain I felt. With the help of a good therapist I finally understood that by blocking it, I was just suffering more. I used to look at grief as something other people did, but not me. I was strong you see, had built up quite the façade of coping not well, but extraordinarily well. So I had an image to maintain, combined with not really knowing what I was feeling, which meant I didn’t grieve. I guess because I didn’t know what would happen if I did and more, where it would end. I eventually accepted that grief was a huge part of coming to terms with and accepting the loss of people who had been disinterested in and undeserving of my love anyway. I eventually understood that grief was an emotion to be dealt with and worked through. And that freed me enough to recognise I wasn’t being held to ransom anymore. I was free! Free to be sad and hurt and lonely whenever I needed to, which I did, and sometimes still do.
We all grieve in our own way and one of the worst things you can do is to pretend you’re fine when you’re not. The way I manage it best, is by facing it head on. I dive on in and emerge through covered in exhaustion, smelling of sadness but feeling a little less overwhelmed and a little more myself. One of the toughest challenges when grieving is managing others people and their belief about ‘what you should be doing’. It makes it almost impossible to relate to them on any meaningful level. The hardest thing to do is to open up to them about just wanting to be sat with, or listened to without judgement or advice. Give yourself permission to not ‘get out more’ or ‘go over there for dinner’, if you don’t feel like it or want to. The time will come when you do, but that is your choice. After all, it is your grief, not theirs. They love you and want to help and don’t know how. Hard as it is , you are the only one who can guide them through this. Some people avoid others while working through their grief, because they feel huge expectations to manage the loss and cope well. Don’t Ever Do That. Be you, be true to you and honour where you are at.
There are some truisms around grief I find useful:
Grief is part of life.
Be whoever you need to be to manage it.
I did and you will too.
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