Grief is a natural, common occurrence to loss. Here are 8 things that are important to recognize about grief.
- Everyone experiences it in different ways, and no way is better than the other. Some people are vocal and express their grief through cries or screams. Some people grieve quietly. Some people need outside comfort and seek to be around others, while other people need solitude and time to work out their sorrow alone.
- When an abuser dies, the person he or she hurt can experience complicated and distressing feelings. There may be guilt, or relief, or even joy. Often sadness is felt in the midst of a storm of other emotions. Flashbacks or memories may come up. If this happens, going to therapy can be helpful.
- Grief can be delayed. At times, people bury their sorrow due to life stresses or unconscious fears about not being able to handle it. It can reappear when something triggers the grief response. Sometimes a person will feel like they have fully grieved a death, only to have the feelings resurface years later, at a wedding or holiday, or when someone else dies.
- Grief is not limited to death. People can have intense sorrowful reactions to any kind of loss – job, pet, relationship, home. It may be confusing to have a strong reaction when moving to a new home, or retiring, or having a pet die, but it’s normal. Accept it, feel the feelings and don’t judge yourself for something that is natural.
- Time usually lessens the intensity of the feelings. The ‘firsts’ can be difficult: the first Christmas without the person, the first New Year’s, or birthday. For many people, having gone through a year without a loved one is a milestone.
- Episodes of intense sadness may reappear from time to time, seemingly out of nowhere. You might be on vacation to Disney World, and you’re hit with a wave of grief when you see something that reminds you of the person who died.
- Children grieve in ways that may be hard for adults to understand. Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the child’s grief response, and support them in their feelings and reactions. One child may lose a dog and be immediately focused on getting a new one. Another child may lose a dog and be in visible grief for days. Both children loved their dogs, but both worked through their grief in different, equally acceptable ways. It’s important to be sensitive to this and not make judgements.
- Rituals are an important part of grieving. They may come in the form of dress for bereavement, ways of comforting the surviving family members, burial or cremation, or services at a place of worship.
The most important thing to remember about grief is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Feelings are simply feelings, nothing to be judged for. Each person needs to be allowed to grieve in their own manner, on their own timeline. And if things start to feel overwhelming, it may be time to seek help through a counselor or therapist.