What is grief?

     Many people think of grief as an emotion. Grief is not an emotion but it’s an emotional response to the death of a loved one or a significant loss.  As a death doula I experienced grief after losing two aunts that I was very close to. They both passed the month of my birthday and two different times. I eventually discovered I had stopped celebrating my birthday as a result to grief. 

    Grief is a painful emotion which many of us have experienced in our lifetime. Grief is a time of feeling every emotion. A person can suffer different types of grief after a divorce, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job. Even the loss of tangible property due to a natural disaster or theft causes grief in many people.  Society tends to believe that grief makes you sad. If only grief was this simple. If you have lost someone you love, you should be prepared for the reality that grief will drag you through a huge expanse of emotions – from the raw, debilitating, and shocking wound of your immediate loss to the long-term feelings of loneliness, isolation and longing for your loved one that never quite go away. You may also be caught off guard when your emotions change rapidly, intensifying and then retreating again, only to reemerge when you least expect them.

There are stages of grief:

  • 1. Denial, numbness, and shock: Numbness is a normal reaction to a death or loss and should never be confused with "not caring."
  • 2. Bargaining: This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts about what "could have been done" to prevent the death or loss.
  • 3. Depression: In this stage, we begin to realize and feel the true extent of the death or loss.
  • 4. Anger: This stage is common. It usually happens when we feel helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of abandonment because of a death or loss.
  • 5. Acceptance: In time, we can come to terms with all the emotions and feelings we experienced when the death or loss happened.

 

Many of us have who experience grief choose to keep going and think that it will heal over time. But that’s not how it works. We tend to learn to live around grief instead of doing the work.  Here are some tips on how to heal from grief:

  • Spend time grieving intentionally to work through your emotions. It sounds strange but hear me out.  When our mind see us fighting with or running away from something (including an emotion like sadness, for example), it learns to see that thing as a threat. Which means the next time something triggers your sadness, your mind is going to go on high alert, increasing your anxiety and overall level of emotionality.
  • Seek a psychologist/ therapist or the right social or spiritual support.
  • Choose when and how you grieve to gain control when your emotions are high.  There is more emotions with grief than just sadness.
  • Try a holistic way of healing such as essential oils, herbal teas and tinctures, yoga, meditation and ritualistically guided meditations
  • Seek out a death doula / Soul Midwife.  They can also assist the family with the early stages of grief. They are not professional counselors, but they are familiar with the grief process and won’t abandon you immediately after death occurs. While death doesn’t come without loss and grief, it can still be a beautiful, sacred experience.

 

Death may be as close as we can get to a universal human experience, but emotional reactions to it are constantly shifting. Grief is always being redefined, often in terms of other emotions. Tracing these changes can tell us much about a culture’s changing relationship to death – and by extension to life.

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