Grief is a universal human experience, yet one that is poorly understood in our modern social media dominated society. Grief is a profound emotion encompassing a multitude of feelings including sadness, anger, disbelief, numbness, confusion, hopelessness and disorientation. Grief occurs after a significant loss such as the death of a child, partner, sibling, parent or friend, moving to another country and migration with accompanying loss of personal history and social network. We can also experience grief after the loss of a job, a significant deterioration in our health, or the death of a beloved pet. Grief and death are largely invisible in our modern society, where few people live in multi-generational families and have little or no experience of the process of death and grief.
When we experience grief, we do so in the context of our personal, family and cultural history, and the age and stage of life at which this loss occurs. Children and adolescents often show their grief in different ways to adults and others may not recognise the depth of their grief. Each person will be challenged by grief and needs support and understanding to help them process the loss.
Grief work is hard. If we are to fully grieve and comes to term with our loss, we need to find a way to make space for the intense emotions that accompany our grief, to accept the loss that we cannot change, and find a way to go on with our lives. The lack of awareness in modern society of the needs of people who are grieving can make it difficult to process grief. Expecting someone to get over the loss of a family member quickly is unrealistic and harmful. Similarly, unhelpful strategies which numb or deny the loss can affect our mental health. Traumatic loss such as suicide, or witnessing a traumatic death makes the grief harder to process.
Grief is also lifelong process, so that as we move through our lives other losses and events may bring up the original grief. Significant life events such as becoming a parent, making a commitment to a life partner, a career change or moving countries can each trigger grief emotions, and we need time to process the renewed sense of loss.
Grief is a normal part of life, yet for those experiencing grief it can feel abnormal and difficult to understand, especially given the lack of awareness in society.
One of the most important things we can do to support someone who is grieving is to remember keep in touch with them, and offer your help however small. A phone call, meeting for a coffee or a chat, offering to make a meal, or help with some practical errand shows that you care about them. Allow them to talk about the person who has died or not talk about them. People often worry about what to say to someone who is grieving. There are no words that will magically make the grief go away, however, acknowledging the loss, and not trying to fix it, is immensely valuable, and even just saying how sad you are that they have experienced the loss will be powerful.
If you have are experiencing grief and would like to talk to a someone about that, please call me to discuss how I can help.