Grief is what we experience as a result of a loss. Loss of someone by death or divorce, loss of our health, loss of a job, and moving our place of home are a few examples of significant losses that can cause us to respond with grief.
Grief after a death is characterized by pain and disruption in all realms of life: the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual. It is universally human, yet unique to each individual in the way that a fingerprint is.
Knowing the common symptoms and course of grief allows us to gauge how we are doing, and know what to expect over time. Often people believe they are “weak”, “going crazy”, “not handling it”, or “having a breakdown” when in fact their grief is well within what is normal in relation to the loss that has taken place.
Grief is the natural and expected response to a death. Living our grief as the true reflection of our experience of loss affirms essential, innate qualities of our humanity. The significance of our connection to others is confirmed when grief is allowed to pass through us. Trusting the natural response of our body to sob or weep without restraint fosters the healthy unfolding of grief and diminishes the pain.
Throughout the ages grieving and mourning have taken place in the context of family and community. Many of us in modern society experience isolation along with our grief, which can add to our pain. Support from others throughout our grieving is helpful. Those with whom our pain is safe, and who help us honor our relationship to the one who died, help the grieving progress and ease our pain.
Many bereaved people feel the need to be relieved of the responsibilities of daily life. This is often interpreted as avoidance or “not handling it”. In fact, being removed from daily responsibilities is a common wish expressed by the bereaved, and may be an accurate perception of what would be helpful. I refer to this as the need for sanctuary. Sanctuary is different from isolation. Isolation is characterized by feeling alone with our pain and alienated from others and support. Sanctuary is characterized by peaceful time without the usual demands of daily life, and the opportunity to accommodate to the significant change caused by the death. It can help establish equilibrium with the new circumstances of our life. Modern lifestyles often do not allow for periods of sanctuary. Even so, having time to be quiet, reflective, and removed from daily demands can help you incorporate the reality of the death into your life, with all its consequences, and regain equilibrium that has been lost.
Read more about Grief on the following pages.
Grief | Starting Points | Common Grief Reactions | The Universal Response | The Pain | Paradox | The Personal Side | Personal & Relationship | Timing & Circumstances | Culture & Religion | More Reading