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A Basic Understanding of Grief

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Grief is a universal human response to loss. It is a normal, healthy, experience involving complex emotions, thoughts, spiritual states, and behaviors.

A simple definition of grief is an emotional reaction we experience when we suffer a loss.

Grief is profoundly misunderstood in our society. There is a large gap between what a griever feels and what others expect them to feel. Society has an unrealistic expectation about grieving. For example, it is believed and even encouraged that people should get on with life within a short period of time. This often leads the grieving individual to feel anxious, afraid, and self-doubting. Feelings cannot be fixed quickly. They must take time to heal.

The normal grieving process takes 18-24 months. Suicide survivors take 2 years or longer. Grief simply must run its course.

Grief is natural. To mourn is normal. To cry is healthy. It is not wrong or bad to grieve. Rather, it is wrong not to grieve. Grief is nature's way of assisting us to cope with the loss we have experienced.

Grief takes time. To grieve is a very human, healthy, and necessary response to loss.

Grief is not tidy. It does not travel neatly along a smooth, straight road, but instead feels like a rollercoaster ride filled with bumpy ups and downs.

Grief is not a mental illness. It just feels that way sometimes. Insomnia, anxiety, fear, anger, loss of interests, preoccupation with thoughts of loved one can all add up to feelings of "going crazy". But this is a normal part of grieving.

Grief is exhausting. Grief takes a toll on our mental energy.

Grief is a time of turning inwards. We need to take time to understand the various feelings exploding into our life. We need to make sense of our changed reality. Our whole routine and patterns of interaction has changed and will never be the same.

Grief is natural. All people experience death and to experience the accompanying grief is normal. Society has a tendency to deny death and to look at any expression of grief as something either inappropriate or weak.

No two people grieve the same. Some display their feelings openly and others may keep their emotions in check.

Our feelings are valid and therefore sorrow should be allowed to be expressed. Our feelings are neither right or wrong, neither good nor bad. They just are and therefore should not be judged by ourselves or by others.

The grieving process is ultimately something we must do on our own, but we do not have to do it alone or unsupported. Only by working through our loss can we finally come to a state of balance, peace, and acceptance.

What to do for a grieving person?

The most important thing that one can do to support someone who is grieving is to simply be present.

Give them a hug

Call often and visit

All them to talk about their loss and their story

It is okay to talk about the person who died.

Simply listening is one of the best ways to help that you can give.

Listen emphatically

Remember, share, and even laugh over memories.

Do not forget anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays with a card, a call, a flower, or a visit.

Above all else, be there for the person in grief.

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