1. Grief is the normal response to loss.
Grief and its pain are the results of the love or emotional investment you have in the person who died. If you did not love them and they did not make a difference in your life, you would not miss them or hurt like you do now. Grief is the price we pay for loving people who are important to us.
Often mourners try to avoid grief and its accompanying emotions because they are overwhelming and just too painful. Since grief emotions are the result of loving the person who died, the only way to avoid the pain would be to avoid or stop loving them. Think of grief as another expression of the love you have for the person. You don’t want to stop loving them. So you wouldn’t want to stop expressing that love in the normal, natural process of grief.
2. Emotions experienced during grief are neither good nor bad. They just are.
Although grief emotions are painful and uncomfortable, they are part of the grief process. Grief is a transition from life with the person to life without the person. The painful, emotional process helps us to heal the emotional wounds of our loss. In grief you cannot always choose or control what you feel. Emotions in grief seem to just happen to you. Although you don’t choose what grief emotions you experience, you can choose how you express those emotions in your behavior (mourning). You can choose to express those emotions in either healthy or unhealthy ways.
3. Grief emotions will be dealt with…either now or later.
The emotions of grief will not be ignored or avoided. They demand that you as a mourner acknowledge and express them in some way. The best outcome is when the mourner acknowledges the emotion(s), expresses the feelings and seeks the help and support of sympathetic, non-judgmental listeners.
If grief emotions go unexpressed over a period of time, two things can happen to the mourner – he or she will either explode or implode. In an explosion of withheld emotions, the mourner can go out of control with a reaction that harms or destroys lives, friendships, marriages, families and peoples’ spiritual well-being. An implosion caused by withheld emotions can bring about emotional meltdowns or what used to be called “nervous breakdowns” for the mourner (including results such as chronic depression and severe mental/emotional disorders).
4. Grief is an individualized experience. Everyone does not grieve in the same predictable way.
No two people grieve exactly alike. That is because each person’s grief is shaped by the unique, one-of-a-kind in all the universe relationship that they had with the person who died. Although there may be common feelings or experiences that many mourners experience and express, every mourner’s grief is special to him or her.
Grief is not a set of predictable phases, steps or tasks that must be completed in a specific order and by a prescribed timetable. Grief takes as long as it takes. To some degree, you will mourn the loss the rest of your life. The difficult, exhaustive work of grief is to review the loss, to assess the impact the loss has had on your life and to decide how best to live your life without that person.
Living without the person does not mean “detaching” from them or “letting go” of the relationship. In life after loss, you still have a relationship with your loved one. It is just not the same any more in that the physical aspect of the relationship in this life has ended. You can still keep a relationship with your loved one alive on a spiritual and emotional level. You don’t have to leave your loved one in the past and move on. You can take your loved one with you into the future as long as you accept that the relationship continues but the nature of the relationship has changed.
5. Grief will not always be like it is in the beginning. As time passes the grief experience changes.
Time does not heal all wounds, but in grief time can allow space for the emotional wounds of loss to heal and for the heart to find hope. In the beginning, grief is all-consuming and overwhelming. Everything is a memory of your loved one and a reminder of your loss. But time allows you to have hope for and healing in your future. As you take on the task of grief work and you progress through grief, the bad emotional days happen less and less and farther and farther apart. In the future your grief will not be like it is right now. You will still grieve, but your grief will be different. Maybe not better, just different than it is right now. There can be hope and healing in your grief journey with healthy decisions.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT
To be successful in your grief process, now is the time to make some important decisions that will help you to mourn in a healthy way. If you would like to talk with a Christian counselor to plan a healthy journey into grief, call CounselingWorks at 972-960-9981 or fill out our contact form. Individual grief counseling and adult grief support groups are available.
If you have children ages 5-18 who are sharing this grief journey with you, consider enrolling your family in GriefWorks, a children’s grief support group program that meets two evenings a month. Your children will be in age-specific groups with other children who have suffered losses. There your children will find a safe, confidential and healthy place to express themselves and their grief. For more information, call GriefWorks at 972-960-9981 or fill out our contact form.