Good Grief

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griefWe’ve all been there. An event that you would have rather lived without. An event that kicks you so hard in the stomach that you can barely catch your breath, let alone your balance. Whether you expected it, or it seemingly came out of the clear blue sky, there are certain losses that simply take your world and not only turn it upside-down, but shake it up like a snow globe. These losses leave us in a place where we can only grieve.

Grief is a place of the deepest sadness we can feel. Usually it’s caused by the death or the separation of a loved one. But, grief isn’t only associated with the loss of a person or a pet, it’s also possible to feel grief when we’ve lost a job, a relationship, an opportunity, something we’ve grown used to, or any thing that was loved, anticipated or desired (like when our roles change, when the kids move out, when we move, change jobs, etc.). So, where do you go, how do you overcome a sadness or disappointment that leaves you feeling like a hollow shell?

The ultimate goal is acceptance; from there, you can move on and build. But, before you can do that, there are a few other emotions to experience and work through.

1. The first and probably most difficult step is denial. Here’s that painful place of non-acceptance, living it over, time after time, delving into the “would have,” “should have,” “could have.” It’s doing nothing for you (or any one else), but we’re not ready or willing to accept what is. So, where can you go from here?

2. The lack of control over the situation will sometimes bring us to a place of anger. This happens as we try and find ways to change and/or fix the situation, which often leads to so much frustration because we soon realize that we can’t change things that are out of our control.

3. This is when we often start searching for a solution. We may release the situation to a higher power or try to find something that feels right on our own. Bargaining is a step toward acceptance. Releasing control, even if it’s just a little, starts to leave room to see something new.

4. Although we’d like to see and fully anticipate an immediate response, we may realize that an immediate response isn’t coming, which can fill us with sadness and can sometimes lead to depression. That sadness, however, also helps us to the final step in the grief process… acceptance.

5. Acceptance doesn’t come easily. In fact, we can struggle with our loss tremendously as we feel like we’re giving up something that’s so comfortable and familiar. After we’ve done it all, tried it all, bargained it all, accepting that both the event and the outcome are truly out of our control, letting go and accepting what is can help us to rebuild and ultimately move on.

Grief is a complicated process that has many layers, and no one controls the many stages other than you. It’s not as simple as “I am happy” or “I am sad.” Also, the stages of grief are not necessarily so clearly defined and can overlap or come in a different order. Finally, no one but you determines if something is worthy of grieving, or not. Just because someone seemed to handle a similar situation a bit more easily doesn’t mean you’ll have the same response. We’re all unique and handle grief and the time it takes in our own way. The most important thing, no matter the loss, is to be patient, loving and most of all, kind to yourself. Take time to feel, to mourn, to grieve. Your humanity is also your greatest gift. Allow yourself the grace and the space to be human and watch a new chapter and version of yourself to slowly unfold.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023