It goes without saying, these are difficult times. As you might imagine, many people are struggling with a whole gamut of emotions. Perhaps you are as well. It may be due to the death of a family member or friend. Or it could be due to health and safety concerns about sending your child to school or college and if that was the best action to take. Or maybe you’re concerned about your ability to ride the tumultuous waves of our economy, finding a job or keeping the one you have, keeping your business afloat, or straining to keep your family and relationships from falling apart. Are you afraid of what might happen next, struggling with loneliness, or concerned about yourself or someone you love?
Life is full of grief. It is caused by the changes, disappointments, betrayals, and losses you have been through. It is caused by those things you feel guilty about and the regrets you harbor within. You do not have to succumb to the feelings of hopelessness and loneliness or even the fear and anger that may be welling up inside because of the mishaps life has thrown in your path. There is help.
Grief is one of the least talked about topics in our country and is one of the least understood. According to The Grief Recovery Method®, “Grief is the conflicting feelings a person may experience with the end of or change in any familiar pattern of behavior.” Think about the many changes going on right now. Grief is broader than perhaps you might have ever imagined. Once you understand that grief is a normal and natural reaction to change, you can take the steps to help yourself and be more effective in coming alongside others who are struggling.
To gain a better understanding about grief, think about the conflicting feelings one might experience with the death of a loved one following a long-term illness. A person might feel relief because their loved one is no longer suffering and yet, at the same time, feel deep sadness, loneliness, confusion, and perhaps overwhelm and fear of the future without that person. Consider the conflicting feelings a student might be experiencing as school has started. They may be excited while simultaneously feeling afraid about all the changes including the loss of freedom of hanging out with friends. How about the high school graduate? Certainly, their senior year and graduation was nothing like they imagined. While feeling good about completing school, they are deprived all of the events that commemorate the culmination of all their work.
Take another situation you may be experiencing, that of having to work from home. You might feel lonely without the face-to-face connections with your co-workers but also glad to be able to sleep in a little longer and not have to deal with traffic. When people think about grief, death and divorce are generally the first events that come to mind but, as you can see, life altering events take many forms.
We Do Not Know What We Do Not Know.
Grief is emotional – not intellectual! We have been led to believe a person is either happy or sad, mad, or lonely, but a griever may be bombarded with various emotions simultaneously. They might feel overwhelmed, confused, lonely, angry, deeply sad, or full of regrets. Sometimes it is difficult for a person to sort through the maze of emotions.
What makes matters worse for the griever is that most people do not know want to say or do. You may be experiencing this yourself. Some family member or friend wants to fix you and the situation. They may give you unsolicited advice such as “Just give it time,” Keep busy,,” or tell you to be strong for your child, parent, friend, or spouse. This advice is not helpful.
Other well-meaning people want you, the griever, to feel better – perhaps to resolve their own discomfort with your emotions. Some will say things like: “At least he is no longer suffering.” “He’s in a better place.” “You’re strong.” “You’ll find someone else.” “Make new friends.” The list goes on. They want to remind you of all the good things and fun times without realizing they are putting a cap on your emotions. Sometimes they will just ignore your emotion or avoid you all together.
These well-meaning but uninformed people tend to intellectualize your grief. Some believe they know how you feel because they went through something similar, but they do not know. No one knows how you feel or what you are going through! Each person, each relationship, each situation is totally unique.
What you, a griever, needs at this time is a heart with ears. Someone who will listen without trying to fix you. A person who will let you express your feelings, with or without tears. You are not broken, you do not need to be fixed, and you are not going crazy. You need someone who will not judge, criticize, or try to analyze you.
You may think you can handle your grief on your own. Let me assure you, the greater benefit is to have someone walk this journey with you who truly understands grief.
Bobbie Rill, M.A., LPC
Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist & National Trainer
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional
The Grief & Wellness Group, Inc.