What is Grief? By Deborah Lynch

Deborah is a Therapist working from her home office in Felixstowe, and after lots of chats with different parts of the community, felt that so many people only really felt able to say they were suffering from the fall out of grief if someone had died. Deborah felt it was only right to write this article in hope to help members of the community..

It is something no one is immune to in life. There is no roadmap, no timeline, and no right or wrong way to face it. It is often more than just sadness, more than just tears — it may be something that is life-changing and as unique as the person experiencing it.

Sometimes, we may think of grief only in terms of death — especially sudden death — but grief takes many forms and is more of a constant companion than we may like to think. It can become part of any relationship or event that is special and important to us. It is the proof of love, hope, security, friendship, and family. It is the evidence of relationship, impact, influence, and importance in our lives.

Over the years, I have found that grief takes many forms, it  impacts me differently each time I feel it, and is not easily forgotten or even fully understood by myself and others. While life goes on, in some ways, life remains frozen in those moments — the instances when everything seems to change.

Losing someone or something special to us may affect us in ways that similar events might not affect others. Each person processes their losses differently because each person and relationship is unique. As I have grown, I have grieved each loss differently, and sometimes that loss has not been a person — but a thing or even an event like a diagnosis or a chronic illness.

When I first got diagnosed with Rhumatoid arthritis I first realized I was not grieving death or the loss of someone but was instead grieving the death of something else — my prefered future, my loss of self, I had a real revelation. I had never thought of grief in these terms and had never really associated it with something other than losing a person.

When we experience loss and grief, it is often hard and painful and can stir up many emotions. While our experiences may be different, we often feel many of the same feelings. We may feel fear of what the future will hold, anger at the unfairness or wrongness of the situation, hurt and pain in response to the void we may now feel, sadness about the loss we are now facing, and frustration at the reality of our situation. These are just a few of the many emotions we may experience.

Grief can be brought on by many events. It can come from a sudden death, watching someone slowly slip away, receiving devastating news, the loss of something that matters to us, the realization that our future dreams will go unfulfilled, or the end of a relationship.

Whether your loss is of a person, dreams, future plans, special things, or even cherished animals, grief takes time, and it is not something we should face alone. Often, though, that is what happens because many times, grief is uncomfortable. People may be unsure of what to say, how to act, or what to do because often, grief cannot be fixed.

Whether we are the one walking through grief or whether we are close to someone who is, going through grief and pain alone should not happen. Too often, though, fear or discomfort with the emotions involved in grieving stops people from being there with a grieving person in their time of pain.

When you’re coping with someone else’s grief, there are several things to remember. Know that we all need someone sometimes. Remember that we need to give ourselves and others a break and let them deal with their pain in their way and on their own time. Think about how we need to support each other and care for others how they need us to, not how we may think they need us to. Remind yourself that we just need to be there because sometimes we all need someone to sit in the mud with us.

Tell yourself that we need to give the grieving person and ourselves grace because sometimes we will do or say the wrong thing, but that should not stop us from trying. Most importantly, know that we need to show compassion and empathy — not just expect others to “suck it up” or “be strong.” Tears are OK, and others may need to know we are OK with their sorrow.

Whether a loss is sudden or slow; whether it is a person or animal; whether it is a thing, an event, or our plans or dreams; when loss comes, grief quietly follows. We have no control over how long grief will last or how deeply it will affect us, but from the time of that first loss we experience to the time of all the losses that follow, grief may become our constant companion, but it won't hurt so much, it won't totally consume us, as everyday we move forward through life with new focus, with new aspirations. The situation we have faced, will always be carried within us, but in time, we can learn to live with it...

Grief can change, it can bring a range of different realities that we maybe hadn't thought of, we can reach out and discover new patterns of behaviour that can help us navigate through the pain. By talking openly and honestly about how we feel, only then can we learn to live with the loss.