Updated: Jul 29, 2022
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The Grief and Loss Series
What Is Grief?
While the question posed by the title of this article may seem obvious, grief is a particularly interesting emotion. We all know that it is caused by an extremely unfortunate life event, such as the death of a loved one or a negative change of some sort but pinning down an actual definition that sufficiently describes grief is not a simple task.
It is easy to see how grief is commonly used as a synonym for other emotions such as sadness, hurt and frustration. Although there are similarities between these emotions, grief is an experience very unique in itself.
First of all, the times in life when a person truly experience grief are not fleeting moments that quickly fade away. People will always remember the periods in their life that were so upsetting and painful that they felt the true emotional discourse that grief entails.
On the other hand, feeling sad is a fairly common occurrence for the majority of individuals. Most of the time, sadness is resolved rather quickly, coming, and going without any lasting changes to life. With sadness, there doesn’t tend to be a process for working through the situation. This is the same for other emotions often associated with grief like hurt and frustration.
Grief is not a passing feeling that someone experiences for a moment or even a day, an experience that is forgotten as soon as the next emotion experienced takes its place. You are probably familiar with the term, “grieving process,” and this term really describes what this emotion is a process.
There are multiple stages of the grieving process that people tend to go through, although the order and duration of these stages almost always vary according to the individual. What is universal, however, is that reaching a state of healing after an event monumental enough to cause true grief takes time, sometimes a lot of it.
Another unique aspect of grief is that, unlike weaker negative emotions, unresolved grief can very easily disrupt a person’s entire life. For example, we have all heard of people becoming completely derailed after a tragic event.
This can look like substance abuse, wildly uncharacteristic behavior, isolation from the outside world and complete loss of interest in hobbies and activities. Getting upset at a rude comment or becoming frustrated at a boss or colleague doesn’t possess nearly this much power.
Given that grief most certainly has the ability to become a detriment to an individual’s life far down the road, it is especially important that those experiencing it are allowed to sufficient time to work through the process.
Furthermore, dealing with grief alone is very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. Whether experiencing this emotion personally or being aware that someone else is going through it, being surrounded by those who love, and care is critical. Some emotions are too intense to be dealt with alone.
Although odd, grief can also be a series of conflicting emotions. The death of a loved one is extremely saddening, whereas the knowledge that they are no longer experiencing the pain and suffering that went on for a long time due to a terminal disease can be comforting.
Moving out of a home filled with years of fond memories and leaving behind a familiar city can certainly feel tragic, but the excitement of a new job, new school or new opportunities can ease much of the pain. Grief is an extremely complex emotional experience.
Insomnia and Sleep
Sometimes people complain because they can't sleep. Many people don't realize grief can and often does keep people from sleeping well. Sometimes the pain and mixed emotions are processed so when it comes time to sleep and our guard is down, it all comes rushing in. it may be that your mind begins to race, or you wake up feeling shock and disbelief of your loss or you may have nightmares and painful dreams. Much of this is simply part of the grief process but some can be alleviated with self care practices, for instance:
Working with a grief counselor,
Treating your home as a sanctuary,
Creating a sacred place to honor your loss,
Creating beauty in your life, taking good care of your health
These are just some of the ways you can heal from the pain that comes from loss and you will be able to sleep better and heal. What and how you heal is as individual as you but taking care of yourself by eating well, resting, expressing your emotions in healthy way, are ways you can begin your journey to healing.
So, What is Grief?
Grief is a lot of things occurring simultaneously. It is deep sadness, loss and hurt blended with release, newness, and resolve. Trying to place a concrete definition on such a strong emotion deprives the individual experiencing it the validation required to work through it.
Greif is a result of a trauma and ought to be taken seriously because trauma that remains unhealed leads to many other problems that don't have to happen.
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