05 Mar Good Grief!
I know it’s almost Spring and we’re supposed to be thinking about life and renewal. But recently a couple of things have gotten me thinking about the other side – about death and grief. One is that I am working with a number of people in my therapy practice right now who are dealing with or preparing to deal with the passing of a loved one. The second is that I myself lost someone very close and special to me recently. There’s nothing like personal experience to heighten one’s empathy!
So I thought for this blog I would address some issues related to grief and the grief process. We all are, have, or will go through profound grief. We don’t much like to think about it because it speaks to some of our greatest fears – fears about death and eternity and loss and aloneness. But on the other hand, death is as much a part of life as birth and something we probably need to spend some time dealing with, even when it is not our present reality.
The gold standard work on grief was done by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was the first to clearly identify the emotional stages one goes through in times of grief. Her 1969 groundbreaking book is entitled On Death and Dying. Since then, her research has been refined and developed up to and including tremendous work being done by Hospice and Hospice-type organizations all over the world. Yet even with all this knowledge, we often enter times of grief feeling confused, overwhelmed, and alone. Here are just a few things I hope you can remember when it is your time to grieve.
First, there is no completely predictable path. There are emotions you are likely to experience but when, in what order and so forth depends on many independent factors. Second, there are no “wrong” emotions when you are grieving. I talk to many grieving people who are feeling anger. I tell them over and over that it’s okay to be angry even when it makes no sense in their mind to do so. Third, how long it takes to finish grieving is not wholly predictable. You may find yourself crying about a lost loved one years after they are gone. That is perfectly fine and reasonable. Fourth, don’t spend too much time comparing what you are going through to what you think other people are going through. Each has his/her own path, emotional expressions, and time table. Fifth, we grieve many things, not just death. Any profound loss, even a loss of what we believe was supposed to be, can spark a time of grief. Finally remember this – you will grieve. You may stay busy and avoid dealing with it for awhile but sooner or later you will have your season of grief. Don’t worry. It’s normal and healthy. It’s part of……life.