Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grieving as a Part of Life

Good grief!! Did anyone ever say that to you when you were pushing buttons and testing limits? I think I've heard this many times over... The question that occurred to me today is, is there "good grief?"

Grief visits us in many ways for many reasons. We can deal with it through a cultural context. For example, many cultures have expectations of family visits, food deliveries and time frames for activity restriction. As far as I know, we don't have any particular cultural rules, more expectations and understandings. Below is my take on the whole deal.

Why do we grieve?

According to the helpguide website, there are many reasons to grieve, and we may experience different levels or intensities for different events.

Some reasons we may grieve are:
Death of someone close to you
A relationship breakup
Loss of health
Losing a job
Loss of financial stability
A miscarriage
Death of a pet
Loss of a cherished dream
A loved one’s serious illness
Loss of a friendship
Loss of safety after a trauma
Even subtle losses can lead to grief:
moving away from home
graduating from college
changing jobs
selling your family home
retiring from a career you loved

What does it look like?

I know when I have experienced grief, especially after my mom died, people gave me a lot of advice asked and unasked for. I think only a few people really had good advice. One person told me to "be how I am." It is funny that after someone gave me permission to be me, did I feel comfortable doing so. It is however, excellent advice. Grief looks and feels different to everyone. And- we need to go through it in our unique ways in order to become the changed person we are to be. That's the kicker about loss, we are never the same after it happens.

Each person exhibits grief in different ways. Some may be uber emotional, some may not. Some may not be able to sleep/eat. Some may feel achy. There really are A LOT of symptoms of grief. The key thing to remember is that you need to let yourself grieve, don't ignore it. Also, you need to let others grieve their way. MANY people assume if someone isn't acting like they are grieving that they aren't dealing with it. Avoid this! Being supportive and asking what you can do, and what they think helps them grieve, is more helpful than telling them that you are worried and think they aren't dealing with it.

Many sources site the stages of grief. For me, it was a nice to know, not super helpful but interesting. For some, it is a great relief to know that they are going through what so many have before them. From Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross the “five stages of grief.”

The five stages of grief:
Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Grief a part of life? Really - does it have to be?

After experiencing a major loss, the first I have ever really gone through, I had one of those A-HA moments. And, folks, it wasn't a fun one. I realized that grief is such a part of life that we may as well become aware of ourselves and others around us, learn what a healthy balance is for you. You may be like- DUH, I totally already knew that!!! But for me, in my happy all the time bubble, it was a realization. So, let's get good at grief, embrace how we are built to endure and grow. And don't forget- grief can be good, in the way that it lets you feel the depths of humanness.

Please visit the Helpguide website site for more information and help during times of grieving: Coping with Grief and Loss.

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