What we don’t get about grief

There are SO many things we don’t get about grief whether we are the ones in it or have not yet been touched by loss. The most interesting thing about grief is that anyone can be grieving any type of loss, without understanding that the pain that they are in is the result of their grief.

What is grief?

Grief is described as keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss, sharp sorrow and painful regret. It causes us to be in a state of mental, emotional and physical suffering that can arise from a variety of situations. Many that we don’t ascribe to grief. For example, losses that are not physical, illness, calamity or persecution. Which ranges from minor to catastrophic mistreatment and injustices experienced as an individual or by a community.

We are conditioned to view grief as something we experience only after human loss. But, it is the hurt from any type of harm done to us from any number of experiences that is the most likely to go unrecognized as the grief we are actually suffering. And the longer we suffer, the more we must battle a range of negative emotions and other grief symptoms that only creates more pain and suffering, until we do understand what we are dealing with. Which is grief. Plain and simple.

Grief is hard to diagnose

It took me years to understand my grief symptoms after losing my daughter in 2005. Which you’d think would be straight-forward and easy to diagnose. But they weren’t. Not by me or almost all of the medical professionals I went to for help.

If we can’t identify the grief symptoms related to losing a child, which is often described as the worst loss to bear, how can we possibly understand or even think about grief related to less severe types of loss? Or non-human losses? Such as financial ruin, relationship trauma, abuse and mistreatment? Which sadly, I’d wager almost everyone has experienced in one form or another at some time in their life.

Grief is many things

Grief is many things. Heartache. Regret. Sorrow. Sadness. Depression. Anger and fear (just to name a few). Ultimately, it’s a wild mix of emotion and experiences. Many that are unpredictable and feel daunting without a guidebook to help us through. And I get it.

Who wants to think about loss and other troubles that can cause us so much pain if we don’t have to? But, like good financial planning, understanding that grief can hit anyone at any time, I think it’s worthwhile learning about other people’s tough experiences to help us develop insight, compassion and empathy for each other.

Here are 7 major things that we don’t get about grief:

Grief has a time and dollar element attached to it

Grief is mostly treated as a process that has a time and dollar element to it. This is supported by the many books, professional resources and global corporate policies that prescribe a specific allotment of time off from work (if any) to grieve and return to normal, with or without pay. Usually as quickly as possible. This also translates into our family and social life from the high expectation we have that we should recover and be the same as before.

We all grieve differently

Grief is most often described as a process that we all experience differently. While it is true to a point that we do grieve differently, over-individualizing grief symptoms and the process to heal creates alienation and isolation for the grieving. To the point that the one in grief can feel like they are the ONLY one going through difficult emotions, experiences, thoughts and feelings. It is hugely comforting and a relief when you discover others are going through exactly the same thing you are!

We do not have sufficient empathy and compassion for each other

We do not have sufficient empathy and compassion for each other in our troubles. Specifically, troubles we can’t immediately relate to. Most often, people don’t want to hear about them unless they’ve experienced the same or similar situation. Which automatically creates a “them versus us” class of people. Where neither group feels they can expose their vulnerabilities for different reasons. The touched by grief group struggles with never being able to comfortably demonstrate their weaknesses. They struggle to keep up in the highly competitive standards of this world. The untouched by grief group fears jeopardizing themselves in any way that could expose any of their vulnerabilities. This could threaten their ability to stay in the game or on top.

That there are practical solutions to heal from grief

That there are easily reachable or practical solutions to heal from grief. There aren’t. Plain and simple. While we experience varying degrees of many of the same emotions and experiences in grief, how we approach and can even manage the healing process is unique to every one of us. There are no one-size fits all fixes for healing. Any lessons shared by others can provide comfort and an opportunity for anyone bereaved to reflect on their own experiences and decide to view them differently so they can heal.

Nothing in grief feels normal

Nothing in grief feels normal. Depending on who or what you have lost, it can be difficult if not nearly impossible to regain even the smallest sense of control in an otherwise wholly abstract experience.

Not everyone recovers from grief

Not everyone recovers from grief. The challenge to overcome some loss is too great. Which is why we need compassion and empathy for each other in whatever we are going through, even when we can’t fully understand it.

Grief is a work-weary process to overcome

Grief is a work-weary process to overcome. It can be frightening for those who have not yet been hit by it or major adversity. But not to worry. Your turn will come. One day. As such, the opportunity for us to learn from each other’s experiences should be treated as a gift rather than feel like a threat. There’s always room in our life to learn and grow, no matter where we are on our life path.

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Feature Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash