Moving through Grief

Mar 31, 2022

Let’s talk about grief. Grief is the emotional suffering of loss. It’s the pain we feel when we lose someone or something.

When we lose a loved one, it can rip our hearts out. Often, sometimes we just don’t know how to turn that around. And it’s just not losing a loved one, it can be the loss of a relationship, like a marriage ending or losing a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner, especially when we don’t see it coming. Not having that person around anymore can also tear us apart. I look at it as a death…the death of the relationship, the death of a marriage.

And that can lead to the death of the family unit, at least what it used to be. We don’t get to see our children as much as we used to or as much as we’d like to. Please remember, after a separation, the family unit is still there, just in a different form.

We can also grieve from losing a job or a fur baby. A fur baby can be a significant part of the family. As Kim and I, some of us, our fur baby will be the only child/children we ever have.  

Another loss is when someone loses their life’s dream, not being able to accomplish what they set out to do for various reasons. The simplest example of this is someone dreaming of becoming a sports star, or someone who has just got to the point of succeeding, then WHAM, a career-ending injury. Whether it be going to the Olympics, playing AFL or NRL, or representing Australia in any sport, not being able to fulfil that dream is a great loss, and they will have to grieve to move forward.

Our grief can affect us in various ways, emotionally, physically, and socially. It can affect our sleep, our appetite, and therefore affecting our weight. It can affect our concentration, or we can get headaches. We can get chest pains. We can even have suicidal ideation (i.e. contemplate taking our own life). That’s how low and dark we can get and how tough grief can be

We can also lose interest in the things love to do. We can become numb, bitter, irritable, and detached from others. And grief-stricken people often can’t feel or express joy. The pain can be so overwhelming we often shut down emotionally.  

There 7 Stages of Grief:

  1.  Shock – I can’t believe it has happened
  2.  Denial – Try to deny that it has happened
  3.  Bargain - Try to bargain your way out of it, to make a deal with fate. (If I do this, I’ll get extra time with someone who’s passed or is about to pass. Because we can grieve for someone who is critically ill who has yet to pass.)
  4.  Guilt - Why them? Why not me?
  5.  Anger – “Why the fuck did it happen to them? That’s not fair. Life’s not fair. It’s bullshit.”
  6.  Depression
  7.  Acceptance – once here, we can start to move forward.


Here are a couple of analogies I’ll share with you about grief.

When I was 8, I was playing Tarzan, jumping off a wall to grab a tree branch. I missed and landed on a lower brick wall – FACE FIRST. I knocked out teeth and opened up a hole between my chin and lip. I could stick my finger through it. Blood was going everywhere. I had 7 or 8 stitches on my chin and a couple on my lip.

For the first couple of weeks, it was red, swollen, ugly and really sore. The pain started to ease, but it was still really sore, and I had to be careful with it. If I knocked it, it would be very painful or even bleed. They stitched the lip so tight, the pain was so great, that I couldn’t smile. I didn’t want to smile because of the pain. Then after 2 weeks or so the stitches were removed, then the scab started to fall off. Bit by bit, it started to heal.

It was still tender. And I was still careful not to bang it or even smile too much, but after a bit of time, I was able to smile again, with the occasional bump to remind me to still go easy with it.

I was left with a red blotch on my chin, which took several years to disappear. Over time, the scar healed, to the point now I don’t even notice it when I look in the mirror. It’s still there, and I will always have it with me, but the ugly pain no longer is. My face will never be the same as it was, but it is still my face.

I believe grief is similar. It is an ugly pain to start with. Initially, we don’t want to smile, but over time it starts to heal, and the pain begins to ease. Occasionally we bump it or trigger the pain and open up that wound. We do this by a memory being triggered, a special location, a birthday, an anniversary or Christmas.

Over time that pain will ease. We will be able to live with it. It will always be with us, but as a wonderful memory with some sadness attached. Our life will never be the same, but it continues to move forward. Never the same, but still our life.

I believe using gratitude is a powerful way to help heal loss and get through our grief. We still have to go through the “7 Stages”, but it can help us work through it a little easier.

I lost my uncle a few years back to cancer, and I went straight into gratitude mode. For me, it was “I got to spend this amazing time with an amazing man who taught me so many great lessons. I am grateful for those times, for the laughs, the inside jokes, and him being a part of my life.” Yes, I miss him. Yes, I love him, but my gratitude allowed me to get through my loss much easier, because of those memories and attitude. It was his time and I accepted that. I didn’t like it, but I accepted it.

There are still some triggers, Facebook posts are the most common at the moment, but I just head back to gratitude. And yes, we miss him.

Doug Manning said about grieving,
“Grieving is as natural is as natural as crying when you are hurt sleeping, when you’re tired eating, when you’re hungry or sneezing, when your nose itches, it’s a, it’s nature’s way of healing, a broken heart.”

Apart from Gratitude, Journaling is another great way to process pain. Writing out all our feelings of hurt, frustration, pain, and loss. Releasing all the anger and sadness onto a page is very healthy. Much healthier than bottling it up or shutting it down. I can’t recommend this enough if you are currently struggling with grief.

J.W. Warden wrote a book, “Grief counselling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner”. In it, he outlined a mourning model and provided 4 tasks or stages we must follow:

  1.  Accept the reality of the loss
  2.  Experience the pain of the loss
  3.  Adjust to the new environment without that loss of person (pet or thing or dream)
  4.  Reinvest in the new reality while remembering what you have lost

 

These last 2 points are so poignant. We initially have to adjust to the new environment, which may take time. And we absolutely have to reinvest in our new future without that person (or pet or thing or dream) being there.

If the loss is actually about a person or the marriage, or the kids not being around as much (the family unit), or whatever it is, we have to reinvest in ourselves and our new future. We have to adapt to that new environment. And it will be hard, especially initially, but it will allow us to move forward with our life with great ease.

We will always remember who or what we’ve lost. It is important to appreciate that person and be grateful for the lessons we’ve learned on our journey.

Peace, Love & Healing

Brett

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