As a therapist and a resilience coach, I lead clients through deep emotional work in order to find more contentment and meaning in their lives. This inner work can be uncomfortable and exhausting for everyone involved. The theme of our work this week is grief and this is a theme that often brings up resistance and fear.
Grief is an extremely powerful and deeply felt emotion. It comes as the result of a major change and it can be overwhelming. In grief, we naturally pulse in and out of feeling it all so that we can actually cope with what we are experiencing. You can read more about this concept in my previous blog post It’s Something Unpredictable.
Because it is so powerful, grief often feels scary and overwhelming. We may avoid feeling it because we are afraid that we won’t survive it or that the feelings will never go away. However, we must be able to face our grief so that we can heal and move on rather than being held captive in the past by the emotions that we are refusing to feel.
Some of the contributing factors around why grief is so overwhelming are the qualifiers and expectations that we place around what the loss should be to deserve grieving and what the process of grief should look like. Our society, in many ways, is so uncomfortable with the process of grieving that it is seen as something to “get over” or just outright deny. And the discomfort displayed by others is often a reflection of their own avoidance of grief.
Knowing what we may experience as we are going through grief can allow us to feel what we are feeling and to help normalize what we are going through. Brene’ Brown reports that according to her research, there are three main elements of grief that pop up throughout the experience: Loss, Longing, and Feeling Lost.
We are most familiar with the first component: Loss. This is the knowledge or feeling that something is lost, gone, or missing and in some way, a hole has been created in our lives. If we do not acknowledge the loss and process it, the hole will continue to get bigger and take over more of our lives. The hole created from loss can dictate our every action if we do not give it the attention that it needs.
The component of Loss is where we also see expectations and limitations pop up around what losses are worthy of grief. We may compare our loss to the loss of others and judge whether or not we have the right to grieve. Losses range from the death of a loved one to the death of a dream or vision to the loss of a job or responsibility to the loss of an identity and so on. We may need to take the time to grieve the loss of something we never even had, like a relationship or a life experience. A loss is a loss is a loss and we must give ourselves permission to grieve so that the hole does not take over.
The second component often experienced in grief is Longing. This is the strong and deeply gripping emotion of yearning. It is a desire that may be related to having, seeing, touching, or regaining what we have lost, but it could also show up as longing to feel whole, to have understanding, or to gain closure. Longing happens on a subconscious level and it can be an overwhelmingly visceral experience.
The final component of grief is Feeling Lost. In the experience of grief, we required to recalibrate. We must reassess and revise what things look like. Our life roles and identity may have shifted and we are having to reorient ourselves to who we are and how we will live our lives. We may feel lost emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually and may need some time to stand back up in order to take the next step.
In our experience of grief, we often feel disconnected and unable to talk about what we are experiencing. Sometimes, we are fearful that we will be judged, seen as a burden, or even add to the load that others are carrying in their lives if we reach out to those around us to share what we are struggling with. However, the more we resist what we are feeling and the less we connect with others through this experience, the more alone we will feel and the more power this process will have over directing our thoughts and behaviors.
Every one grieves differently and over different things. There is no time limit or exact way that grief should look. It is not a linear process, but it is part of the human experience. Grief shows us that what was lost meant something to us. As difficult as grief is, we must go through it to come out on the other side.
It is important to connect and to share what we experience in this journey. Reach out. Write about what is going on. Feel the feelings. Even though it is difficult and uncomfortable, it is well worth it to reach healing.
I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,