How To Start Processing Grief and Loss
“It’s been a year… probably time you got over it, right?” – Unhelpful co-worker
We live in a fast-paced world, one that sometimes expects us to process our emotions on a schedule. We get lots of messages filled with expectations of happiness, success, and pain-free ease.
“You should be ready to move on by now.” – Unhelpful family member
But loss and grief are a slow-moving storm - a grief-storm. And the nature and the meaning of the loss will determine the speed of that storm. Usually, that speed is slower than the world wants, often it is slower than the individual wants.
“You keep talking about it, but you should really focus on something else.” – Unhelpful friend
Similar to what I wrote about in the last post on the role of emotions, grief and loss hold important information. Spending time processing grief and losses reveals that information. This allows us to come to terms with what has happened and, in time, move forward.
“It’s been a difficult year for you, hasn’t it?” – Helpful co-worker
The terms ‘grief’ and ‘loss’ usually cover many different emotions. While sadness or sorrow are core parts of grief, alongside it there is usually more complex emotions. These might include anger, guilt, regret, confusion, and loneliness. Take time to name and feel the different emotions that are making up your grief or loss. This will give you a clearer picture of the grief-storm that is surrounding you.
“I didn’t realise it meant that much to you. Would you like to talk about it?” – Helpful family member
Usually, when we think about grief and loss, we think about people or animals passing away. Those are certainly times when we grieve. However, there are many losses that happen throughout our lives that might also require us to process and grieve. Whether it is relocation, changes in employment, changing family dynamics, a pandemic of change, or a breakup; grief and loss are often involved.
For each situation, there are multiple parts that cause those complex emotions. The parts might be people, places, routines, responsibilities, identities, and expectations or dreams. There might be multiple people that you lose or miss for different reasons. There might be multiple places that you miss and the routines that you had there. The same goes for responsibilities, identity, expectations and dreams. Take time to understand and acknowledge the many parts of your grief or loss. Again, this will give you a clearer picture of the grief-storm that is surrounding you.
“You keep saying you are still sad, what do you miss?” – Helpful friend
Grief-storms can hang around for a long time. Sometimes years. But often there are afternoons, days or even weeks of sunshine, and the storm will eventually ease up. What helps them along is allowing emotions to come, feeling them, exploring them (similar to my last post), and understanding the parts of your grief. Towards the end of a grief journey, we begin to find new comforts. There are new people, new places, new routines, new responsibilities, identities, expectations, and dreams. This does not diminish the importance or meaningfulness of whatever or whoever we lost – for example, just because we have become a grown-up does not mean our childhood is meaningless. It just means that chapter has finished, and another has begun. And it has the opportunity to be just as meaningful.
“Tears are welcome here, they mean we’re talking about something meaningful to you.” – Me in a counselling session