Throughout life we experience losses: of jobs, security, dreams, childhoods, marriages, health, and loved ones. The seasons of life all hold within their walls the need to grieve the losses that are attached. For most moments of transition, we give ourselves a few moments to think sadly and perhaps fondly about what we are giving up before quickly moving on.
The depth of loss will be experienced differently by different people and will be associated with what that loss meant to us. Losses hold within them an emotional and psychological involvement. Some losses will be mere glitches in time while others hold within them deep pain and sorrow.
What does it mean to grieve?
Grieving our losses is coming to terms with what has happened – making sense of it all. It is working through the tangles of roller coaster emotions: anger, sorrow, sadness, relief, guilt, fear, anxiety, hope, hopelessness, depression and even joy. We may experience some or all of these emotions and more.
Grieving our losses means working through the normal and natural questions of “Why, what if, why me, if only, and if I had”. While working through the emotions and questions is part of the grieving process, at times there are no answers to our questions and we are left with no easy answers. And we are left to accept and let go of what was so we can heal.
Grieving is finding some way to articulate what we are experiencing. It is not always easy to express what we are feeling in grief. Emotions can be scary, especially if we are experiencing a lot of anger. Anxiety and fears are sometimes hard to define as we move into the unknown. How do I share with someone else what I am feeling when I cannot understand it myself? But in expression, whether through art, writing, talking or silent walks with God, we find release.
Within the process of mourning our loss, we are faced with our vulnerability: How will I make it? Who am I now? How do I ask for help? Do I give myself permission to grieve or do I have to put on the mask of having it all together? Losses can create deep wounds that we don’t see but which leave huge holes in our psyche. With losses that held a lot of meaning, it takes time to heal. As we allow ourselves to grieve we validate and honor our journey.
And finally, grieving allows us to integrate the loss into our lives – it becomes a part of our life story. We remember, but are no longer focused on it. We may still feel sadness, but we also feel happiness, peace, energy and a zest for life. At that point we are able to create a new beginning – a new reality that has meaning and purpose within it. It may be different, but it is okay. Life has taken on a new normal.
©Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC