Grief is a part of being human that is an inherently vulnerable experience, and loss is an inevitable part of being alive, no matter the season.
The ability and willingness to open ourselves to grief, as ironic as it might seem, is essential to living a full, enriched, meaningful life. The deeper and fuller we are able to feel our grief, the deeper and fuller we open ourselves to the gratitude, love, joy, awe, and peace available to us in this life.
The sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour, as the saying goes. Decades of research have supported the ancient, intuitive truth behind those words. However, our western culture is obsessed with self-sufficiency, “staying positive,” “bouncing back,” and “moving on.” And depending on the kinds of messages we received about our feelings within our families, grief may seem, consciously or unconsciously, dangerous, shameful, or simply unbearable to feel. All of this in tandem with grief’s innate intensity, it’s no wonder we have such a tendency to run from grief.
None of us are free from having to live with loss, however, and the problem with running away from our feelings is that it doesn’t make them go away. The more we defend against them, the more we shut ourselves off from our authenticity, vitality, and fullness.
This is to say nothing of the sanctity of grief. To know grief is to know life on a profound level.
Grief is Normal
To bravely touch this sacred ground, it may be comforting to remember these truths about grief:
- Grief is a healthy, adaptive emotion.
We humans are social creatures at our core. We are wired to connect and share, see and be seen by one another. We attach, we love, we get close. When we lose someone who meant something or even had the potential to mean something to us, our physiology wisely responds to this painful loss through grief.
- Grief is messy.
We can’t fit it into tidy steps. There isn’t a timeline for it. There is no “completion” of it either. Our organized left-brains struggle with this and it can often make us believe we aren’t grieving “correctly.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s okay and understandable to feel the need for containment around it, it’s also important to remember that our grief knows the way before we do. With genuine support, we can move with it and through it.
- Our grief falls in proportion to how much we loved.
That grief is probably the most intense, overwhelming emotion we ever face as humans points to what is most important to us as a species: the love and connection we share with one another. The magnitude of our grief reflects the magnitude of our love.
- Loss comes in all forms.
Grief is often tied to people still alive: parents or partners who were unable to meet us in the way we needed and deserved, for example. Or to a soul with whom an important and meaningful connection existed but who we never got the opportunity to know, such as within an adoption or a miscarriage. It’s tied to things unseen but sincerely felt: dreams, hopes, expectations. It’s easy to feel isolated around these kinds of losses because they aren’t as publicly recognized. If you are grieving one of these losses, know that it is as valid as any other and as deserving of support as any other.
- Loss is complex.
No one lives in a vacuum. You aren’t abnormal or crazy for discovering more layers of feelings or losses within your grief or that emerge around it. In fact, I’d say that is the norm.
- It’s healthy and strong to need support for your grief.
Grief is about as intense of an emotion as it gets. Surrounding yourself with as many people as you can who can bear it with you will nurture your healing in important ways.
- Grief originates from what has mattered to us, and it returns us to that place as well.
Nothing puts us in touch with the fragility of this life like loss. In daring to know this fragility, we open ourselves to a depth of gratitude, sincerity, mystery, and grace not otherwise possible. Grief opens the door and wisely leads our way.
When Grief Counseling Would Help
Sometimes grief overwhelms, and without the proper support or an emotional outlet, people may have a hard time processing their grief. Sometimes grief can lead to chronic depression, or make depression symptoms worse. That’s why it’s important to have grief counselors available, and why we’re happy to have staff that can help, teens, families, and individuals in times of grief.
If you are in the midst of grief, and feel like you would like some support, to explore it, or process through it, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re here to help.
I’m glad you talked about how grief counselors can try to keep people in grief from falling into depression. I have been having trouble dealing with the loss of my father. I can see how it would be smart to try grief counseling soon because I worry about the problem getting worse over time.