The Process of Grieving
We all experience grief during our life. Grief is the response we have to any loss that is significant to us. That significance is relative to our personal experience; what is significant to one may not be significant to another. Our experience of grief is a highly personal experience and therefore everyone has a unique experience of their grief, even when it is due to a collective experience.
Grief is a process. When we think of a process, we think of it having a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the case of grief, there is definitely a beginning but there is no real end to the process. The loss that we experience that has triggered our grief becomes part of our life experience and thus is never forgotten. There is no time frame for grief, it is a time driven process and time takes time. The time involved is as highly personal as the experience itself. There are no clear "stages" in grieving, although the model for grief introduced by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is often cited. The "five stages of grief " in the Kubler-Ross model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grieving does not tend to follow a "1,2,3,4,5," progression: we tend to bounce back and forth in these stages over time before we come to find the acceptance of the loss.
You have to feel it to heal it and to feel it you have to express rather than suppress those feelings. If we have support in the expression of those feelings, it helps us to process them. A key element in that support is no judgement: many times we feel judged as we express our feelings, often that judgement can come from ourselves. Whatever our feelings, they belong to us and deserve to be expressed. As long as that method of expression brings no harm to ourselves or anything else living, that is fine. The expression of those feelings gets them out of our head and makes them easier to process. Hearing those feelings brings a clarity, writing those feelings down via journaling brings a depth of understanding.
Grieving tends to bring a sense of isolation, at least temporarily. While everyone else seems to be able to return to their "normal" life, we must redefine what "normal" is going to be after our loss. Also, we can often hear statements like "don't you think it's time to move on?" that cause us to doubt ourselves in this process; however, sometimes these type of statements may be more of a reflection of the discomfort others are feeling with our grief.
Working through this complex process is challenging, so seeking out objective, non-judgmental support is crucial. A therapist with specific training to assist with grief and trauma can be very helpful. Support groups can also be very helpful as they provide a venue where we are not alone with our feelings and experience. Family and friends who can be empathetic without being judgmental can also be useful to us during this process. Choose to not be alone in this process.
Jim Harger,M.Ed., LPC