Grief is an emotion that no human is spared. We lose a loved one and spend the rest of our lives thinking about them when something familiar triggers them back to life.
This article will examine grief, its stages, and how we must learn to accept it as part of being alive.
Grief and Loss
Grief is a natural response to loss or from experiencing a traumatic event. Grief occurs in response to losing someone to death and drastic changes to daily routines or a way of life that was once comfortable but now lacks a sense of stability.
Some common grief reactions include:
Loss of sleep
Loss of appetite
We may experience grief due to a job loss, moving to a new location, and leaving friends behind. Whatever the cause of our grief, it leaves us uncertain and often dwelling on our inner world rather than interacting correctly with the outer world.
Grief and Relationships
Grief can negatively affect intimate relationships in various ways. We may be so wrapped up in our emotional turmoil that we lose the ability to interact well with a significant other.
While every marriage experiences rough days when it is impossible to communicate, grief can intensify the frequency of these times. You may be concerned that your moodiness and attitudes don’t match those of your spouse, leading to arguments from misunderstandings. It is vital to realize this typical when one is grieving.
It is common not to feel the need for emotional and physical intimacy during grief. While grieving, you or your partner may not feel like engaging in sexual contact, and you may both isolate emotionally.
However, some couples may feel more need for emotional connection, and there may be an increase in the need for sexual closeness. It is critical to give each other space when needed and respect each other’s desires or lack thereof.
Sometimes minor irritations or arguments grow into massive confrontations during the grieving process. Try to remind yourself that you are grieving and need to be more patient with each other.
The Stages of Grief
Grief isn’t a linear process, and everyone experiences it differently.
No matter who you are, if you are grieving, you will go through seven stages that may or may not appear in order, and you may return to a stage more than once.
The stages of grief are necessary to heal so that you can move on with your life after a loss. There is no deadline for healing and no timeline for grieving. Let’s explore the seven stages of grief.
Denial/Shock. Denial and shock are unavoidable in almost everyone’s experience with grief. You experience an unwillingness to accept your loss, even if that loss is felt deep inside. Denial and shock provide emotional protection so that you are not overwhelmed by what happened. This stage lasts for days or weeks and, in some rare instances, for years. Denial means your brain is trying to process the event that caused your grief. You might feel empty, uncomfortable, confused, and sad.
Guilt/Pain. As your shock wears off, you may feel incredible desperation and suffering. Since it is human to avoid paid whenever possible, you may try to avoid your emotions, but that will only make them more potent when triggered. It is critical to know and remind yourself that you can handle the emotions that accompany grief. You may have thoughts during this stage, such as “if only” or “I should have done something.” This is totally normal; try to roll with it and allow yourself to feel self-doubt. You must show compassion and understanding to yourself during this stage.
Anger/Bargaining. You have been feeling guilty but may lash out in anger. You may blame and resent the person who has died or left you. It is critical to feel but be aware that your anger can cause permanent damage to your relationships if not quelled. Some of the statements you may make to yourself are “why me?” or you may bargain with your higher power. You might also find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs. If your grief causes you to use substances for more than a month, it is time to seek professional help.
Depression, Loneliness, and Reflection. There will be a long period of sadness when you begin to understand the momentousness of your loss. These feelings of depression, loneliness, and reflection are typical in this stage of grief. This is not the time to feel you need to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” now is the time to practice a lot of self-compassion. You may intentionally isolate yourself to reflect on things you once did with your deceased loved one. At the same time, it is critical to realize that isolation can work against you and deepen your depression. During this stage, you may feel frustrated, anxious, and crushed.
Upward Turn. You are human, and humans crave connection, support, touch, and love. During this stage of grief, you will finally crave engagement with your friends and family and feel you are rising out of the doldrums. You may also feel discouragement because you are falling into an old stage of grief, as your feelings will be on an emotional roller coaster.
Reconstruction. Finally, you can gain mental clarity again. During this stage, you will begin reconstructing yourself without your loved one. This stage consists of realizing that you cannot change what happened but can change your behavior and perception. In a relationship, you reconstruct your closeness and intimate contact. During reconstruction, you may feel revitalized, inspired, and determined.
Acceptance. During acceptance, you learn to be grateful for your relationship with someone who is no longer with you. Although nothing will ever be the same, you can accept this and make plans for your future. Grief never completely goes away, but it does change; you will find good times and joy again. Some of the emotions you will see are hopefulness, comfort, and peace.
Ending Our Time Together
This topic is tough to cover because it can be highly triggering to some people. However, grief is an emotion we will all experience in our lifetimes. In the case of us who have survived severe childhood trauma, we must go through a grieving process because of all that was taken from us.
We can and have the right to grieve over lost childhoods that were stolen from us by our abusers. We also can and should grieve over lost opportunities in life and relationships we were meant to have.
Grief isn’t all bad. Yes, grief is a necessary evil, but it is also cleansing and reconnects some families, and those who feel it find out a great deal about themselves.
Allow yourself to grieve and heal through the process.
“Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honor the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity.” – Terri Irwin