What We Need to Understand About Grief

As a certified grief-informed therapist, I talk about grief and loss every day in my practice. Grief and loss are inevitable. It is something we will all experience at some point during life. For many, grief can be really hard to talk about because it brings up so many uncomfortable feelings: sadness, anger, hurt, guilt, confusion, loneliness. The list goes on and on. I am here to tell you that we need to talk about it! We should not be on an island alone as we grieve. Grief needs to be heard, felt, and witnessed. We need to experience those tough feelings in order to move through the grief. The grief will not go away but we can heal and continue to build our world around it, the more we talk about it. Grief expert, David Kessler, has a brilliant phrase he uses: “What we run from pursues us and what we face transforms us.” Read that again then take a moment and really let that sink in. If we try to run from the uncomfortable feelings, they will not go away. They will continue to build up inside us, becoming heavier and heavier until the weight becomes too much to carry. We have to face them. We have to acknowledge them, feel them, sit with them. I know that sounds uncomfortable but it is necessary in order to heal and grow. When we share our grief stories it keeps that relationship alive. Death of a loved one means they are no longer physically here but it does not mean the relationship and the connection with our person is gone. That love does not die so it is important to continue to honor it. A lot of my clients ask if it is healthy to continue to talk to their person after they have died, to continue to set a place at the table for them, to continue to send them messages. “YES,” is my answer. If that makes you feel better, do it. If it does not make you feel better, do not do it. There is no script on how to grieve and no one should ever tell you how to grieve. Everyone experiences it differently and whatever makes you feel better is the right way to grieve. However, if you are turning to unsafe or unhealthy coping skills like substance use, harmful behavior, or isolation in order to numb the pain or feel some temporary relief, that is never a good option. I encourage you to seek help immediately if that is your way of grieving. We have all heard that there is no timeline for grief and that is very true. Grief can hit us whenever and however. There is no predicting it. We might be a decade or more out from our loss and something can trigger an emotion and all of a sudden, we can feel flooded with that grief again. That is expected. That is ok because, again, that love did not die when our person died. Acknowledge it, feel it, and work through it. When we lose someone or something that meant a lot to us, there will be pain. However, there does not have to be suffering. The best way to not suffer after a loss is to not go through it alone. Share your grief, share your stories, keep that connection alive. If you are struggling and need help, do not hesitate to reach out to a professional. It is always ok to ask for help! As long as there is love, there will be grief, but healing is possible after loss!