How do I grieve?
Death is something that will affect every single person at some point in their lifetime. Our own mortality and the mortality of others, is the one thing that every human being has in common with another.
Until the end of the Second World War grief was something to deny, as a British culture we held the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to loss. However times changed, and with it grieving became more socially acceptable, and many developed ‘grief stages’ or ‘ways to grieve’.
Although the stages of grief do hold relevance, grief is not that clear cut. To lose a loved one is an individual experience; the person who has died was a unique person, and their relationship with you was just as uniquely special. No two losses are the same, we are individuals and we all have our own subjective life experiences, therefore grief and grieving also works in the same unique way.
Grieving will take as long as it needs to take; there is no rule book in how to grieve for someone.
There are common feelings associated with the loss of another, you may feel; numbing, denial, yearning, searching, bargaining, anger, disorganisation, depression, despair and acceptance. However none of these feelings come in order, they can switch back and forth, be fleeting or long lasting, and different life experiences can re-trigger old feelings.
Part of grieving is accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain of grief and adjusting to your new environment without your loved one. This is not an easy journey; it can feel raw, painful and debilitating at times. However letting go is not denying your loved ones existence, or forgetting, it is readjusting to a new ‘normal’ and continuing the bond with your special person in a new way.
When you are in grief, you have a lot to deal with; all aspects of your life are involved in your grieving. Your past and present can influence the way you grieve; how you learnt how to handle loss in your family, how your culture, religion and how society expects you to respond to the current loss. Alongside this, there may be two aspects to you; the side wanting time to stand still, focusing and staying with your loss, against the side that wants to get on with everyday living, your hopes and dreams for the future.
Trying to balance all aspects of your individual experience is really hard; it can be a painful time and very confusing.
It is ok to feel like this, it is ok to take all the time you need, your experience is unique to you, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
However if you feel you are getting stuck in a certain feeling, or need someone to offload on, this is where therapy can help. Therapists can help the grieving process become more manageable, they can help you find ways to deal with your feelings that are overwhelming, and help you keep that continuing bond with your loved one.
I describe grieving as if throwing a rock into a pool; the rock causes a splash, its messy, its aggressive, it changes the pool completely from what it was before. However in time the rock will sink to the bottom of the pool, the water will ripple and eventually calm. And even though the pool will go back to looking the same as before, the rock will always be there; the pool learns how to adjust to the rocks existence, and develops a new ‘normal’.
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