What is Grief? Grief is a very powerful emotion. It visits each of us, one way or another, multiple times during our lifetime. While it is most often associated with the loss of a loved one, we experience a degree of grief every time there is a major change in our life. Grief and loss go hand-in-hand with change.
Grief expresses itself in many different ways and in different degrees. From a subtle underlying stream of sadness that seems to flow through every aspect of our lives to a gut-wrenching, paralyzing feeling that leaves us questioning everything we have ever believed.
The truth is that grief is messy. It is unpredictable. It does not have a timeframe. It gets better and then it gets worse and then better again – sometimes in the same hour. It is complicated. It is made up of feelings of love and nostalgia, anger, blame and regret, peace and pain, a longing for the past and fear of the future.
Grief is something that we cannot understand or control. It is a journey that each of us will take at some point in this human existence.
How do we deal with Grief? As a society, most of us have learned to mask grief and loss, to push it aside, bury it, to “move on”. In the workplace, the average bereavement time off after the death of a close loved one in our country is three days.
Grief is an emotion that must be felt and processed. It is something we must lean into rather than run away from. We think we can outrun it, but it simply settles in and waits patiently until it has the opportunity to express itself in some way. When we don’t allow it to flow freely, over time it emerges as things such as seemingly random anger, depression, or even as a physical illness.
Why is Grief support important? Grief can be overwhelming. When we are in a state of grief, in a misguided effort to protect ourselves, our mind lies to us. It tells us:
- That we are alone, that no one else could possibly understand what we are going through.
- That what we are thinking and feeling will cause pain to those close to us.
As a result, we tend to keep it inside. We isolate, either in the physical sense, by pulling away from friends and family, or in more subtle ways, like pretending we are okay, saying strong, brave words, and all the while suffering in silence. In that silence and pretense, our grief grows.
In order to heal, our grief must be felt, seen, and heard. It must be witnessed in order to pass through us. We don’t need to be fixed. We are not broken (although we often feel that say in a state of grief). We just need a safe space to express our emotions and to be reminded that we are not in this alone.
Grief counseling, whether it be one-on-one with a grief coach or grief therapist, or in a group, is important because it gives you the opportunity to express yourself in a setting where there is no holding back. To have permission to let it all out in the presence of a neutral observer can be extremely freeing. It also opens the door for a different perspective and to learn different tools to embrace and process your grief.
What type of Grief Support or Grief Counseling is right for me? There is no right or wrong or better or worse in regard to what type of grief counseling will work for you. Ask yourself what feels right for you. Trust your intuition. Give it a try and give yourself permission to make any changes that feel right as time goes on. Others can make suggestions, but only you can truly know what feels like a safe space for you.
What is most important is that:
- You seek support.
- You are consistent in integrating the support in your life.
- You continue to trust your instincts, allowing your support to evolve as your healing journey evolves.
My Own Experience with Grief Counseling
In my own personal journey following the death of my daughter, I began by talking to friends. From there I tried several support groups and found one that worked for me. This ultimately led me to one-on-one coaching sessions, which supported me in expressing my emotions and introduced me to different modalities to manage my grief and step fully into my life, such as breathwork, meditation, yoga, and Reiki (energy work).
Grief changes us. It is supposed. Working with a grief coach supported me in moving through the intensity of my grief, accepting and making peace with my grief, and with the fact that grief and joy can coexist. Today I spend my days supporting others as they move down this path.