What is it to Grieve?
Grief is universal and unique to the individual at the same time. It is not an experience that merely lasts weeks to months after a death before one returns to normal. It is a life changing experience. It lasts a long time and is not only emotional. It is physical too. The grieving person’s world changes. Its pace of life, its color, their role in it; it all changes. While we think of the longing for someone as the center of the pain of grief, it is much more than that. Death hits one hard, even with the absence of that longing for or missing someone. It alters how you see yourself; who you are.
In addition to the visceral pain of grief, there is emotional isolation. This is increasingly true as more people live away from their families who share in the loss. Isolation is also created by the unintended, but all too common hurtful comments from friends and acquaintances. Many people are afraid of the bereaved as it is a reminder of death. In addition, they just do not know what to say, so sadly sometimes say nothing at all. The dissonance created between what the person is going through internally and what is being reflected back from the outside is stark. Nothing resonates, leaving the griever feeling like they are going crazy:that somehow they are wrong to feel the way they do.
In an ideal world, a person grieving would not need “grief counseling”, but the fact is that families are not always available to give support. Sometimes they are right there, but are having such a different experience that they may judge their fellow bereaved for responding differently. In these circumstances it can be a comfort to attend a grief support group or see a therapist experienced in supporting the bereaved.