How to grieve well
There are several topics of conversation that we can find highly uncomfortable to engage with, particularly in America.
Religion, finances, politics, and sex are often put into the uncomfortable category and therefore are often avoided in discussions with others. We are disengaging from these topics to our detriment—we are lonely, confused and isolated, often with the most important things in life!
Death and loss are also up there in the uncomfortable and difficult topics to engage. Like the others, the more we avoid engaging with the topic, the more we are negatively impacted.
When someone close to us has died we are left with a variety of painful and confusing feelings. Our desires, hopes, and longings are thwarted and we are left with heartache. There is a deep internal sense that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. One minute we may feel sad and the next minute confusion. One hour may be characterized by joy, then guilt an hour later. Some months are numb while others are angry. So many emotions happening at different times or all at once feel like disintegration. It’s no wonder we wouldn’t want to engage the experience.
Grief is that internal disturbance and upheaval of emotions. Mourning is how we outwardly express our internal grief. They are both ultimately about love.
This process reflects how meaningful a person was to us or how meaningful we wanted him or her to be. It shows the pain of being severed from relationship with this person. The process of grief and mourning is about moving from a relationship of presence to a relationship of remembrance and reengaging with life and continued story.
It’s worth noting that grief and mourning are not limited to physical death. Life losses give us glimpses of death. A spouse dealing with the aftermath of divorce, a child whose best friend has suddenly moved to another state, an artist who begins losing his or her vision; All are experiencing variations of loss of life.
Alan Wolfelt, Founder and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, describes grief as something that is not to “recover from” or “get over”. We are to become reconciled with grief as it is natural and innate to our being as humans in relationship with other humans. Wolfelt identifies 6 needs in the process of grief and mourning:
1. Acknowledge the reality of death and loss.
2. Embrace the pain of loss.
3. Remember the person or aspect of life that has been lost.
4. Consider how your identity and roles in life have changed.
5. Engage the deep and spiritual questions of meaning of life.
6. Receive support from those you trust will meet you in your grief.
How have you experienced loss in life? Has wrestling with grief been encouraged in your life? Maybe you are wondering how to appropriately mourn. Let us know if we can come alongside you and walk the path together.
By Spencer Griffin