Often, grief comes calling during our toughest transitions and most tragic circumstances. It forces us to face our losses. Amid pain and upset, a chapter closes in our lives. Whether we endure the loss of a loved one, career, lifestyle, or relationship, our hopes for a specific kind of future are dashed. And whether we want to move forward or not, life compels us to accept reality and move on.
But knowing that life goes on doesn’t make grieving any easier. At the end of the day, the grieving process takes time and your process is unique to you.
So, if you’re hurting right now, it’s crucial that you find ways to work through your grief without disrespecting or ignoring your emotional needs. Let’s explore how to honor your loss in your own way.
What Is Grief?
Grief, first and foremost, is perfectly normal. A universal experience, grieving encompasses a host of emotions, sensations, and experiences.
On the whole, grief commonly includes shock, anger, sorrow, regret, and deep introspection. Yet, there are other feelings, too, that may surprise you.
Some people feel disconnected and numb. Others feel empty and drained. Depending on the circumstances, you may feel guilty, relieved, or confused as well.
Many people feel grief holistically too, their mind and emotions are affected but so are their bodies. Headaches and digestion are common complaints. Sleep, appetite, and overall sense of health or wellness may decline as well.
In other words, Grief is a mind-body experience. Both parts of you carry pain and both must adjust to the sudden shifts in your life.
How Should We Experience It?
Is there a “right” way to approach grief? Is the Western way of “sucking it up”, “pushing through the pain”, and “moving on” the best course of action?
Moreover, if you can’t move on quickly, are you doing something wrong?
Of course not! But the reactions of others can sometimes make us feel that way. The truth is, your mourning mind and body need time to catch up. You may need a few days, a few months or even a year or two to fully return to the rhythm of life.
Therefore, “grief-shaming” by anyone is decidedly unhelpful. Yet, it is fairly common when loved ones or community members feel uncomfortable with a person’s way of expressing grief or the period of time spent mourning.
Do you find yourself assuring people that you’re fine when you’re not? Do you pretend rather than process?
Give yourself a break.
Speak up for your own needs. It’s okay to ask that others refrain from giving advice or critiquing your grief timeline.
When you allow yourself to be direct, you can ease any sense that your grief is a parade of timed expressions for other people. The last thing you want is for your process to be incomplete or inauthentic. Otherwise, grief can resurface later, complicating and spilling over into other parts of your life.
Honor Your Own Grief Timeline
At some point, most of us have heard about the “stages of grief.”
However, those stages are not a checklist for step- by- step mourning. It’s okay to linger in one stage as you work through the nuances of your loss. “Stages” are not fixed either. We tend to oscillate between the feelings that arise; human emotions are not so tidy to follow a pre-scripted path.
The idea, again, is to be honest. Most of all, with yourself. You needn’t rush past emotions you think are embarrassing or unacceptable to others. Don’t believe you have to manufacture or linger in pain you no longer feel.
Essentially, allow yourself permission to fully embrace your loss. Patiently and self-lovingly notice how it affects you. Then take the next step. Move forward when you are ready.
Finally, if you sense that your grief is complicated by emotions that you can’t handle alone, please do seek help.
Therapy is a safe place to share and find support. It can be immensely comforting to connect with an experienced therapist who understands grief. A professional knowledgeable about loss and recovery can provide the tools and time necessary for growth and peace. Feel free to contact me if you need a place to talk.