Thoughts on Grief
It’s safe to say that many of us have had to deal with some type of loss in our lives. Perhaps you’ve lost a family member who has passed on or you’ve broken off a lifelong friendship. When these things happen, it is only natural that we feel sad and have to go through a grieving process. That process probably brings up a lot of emotions: sadness at the loss of a loved one, guilt that you could have done something differently, happiness through remembering the good times, anger for how things ended, and so on. Everyone experiences the process of grieving differently, meaning that there is no guide for how to grieve; there is no right way or wrong way, but there are things we can do to help us process our emotions and heal.
Expanding the Definition of Grief
First, let’s talk about some things that we can grieve over. Since there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, there is also no small list of things that you are allowed to grieve for. When we think of grieving, we typically think of a loved one passing on. Grief can be triggered by many things; if you have lost something, and losing it upsets you, you are allowed to grieve. Losing your job, your home, a friendship, a life, losing a beloved item, these are just a few examples of what we can grieve over.
No Right or Wrong Way to Grieve
We are allowed to have feelings of sadness! That also means the opposite is just as valid, you are allowed to not feel sadness for things that make others sad. Your emotions are your own, and sometimes while others are crying you do not feel the need to. This does not mean that you are broken or reacting incorrectly, it just shows that you may have a different way of processing. Some people may need to cry for days after losing something or someone, while others are able to move on quickly. Remember the statement: There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Misconceptions About Grief
The topic of grieving includes some common beliefs, practices, and misconceptions about that can do more harm than good. The first one we can tackle is the belief that you need to be strong for others who are grieving alongside you. If you have lost a family member and your immediate family is grieving with you, it is helpful to be there emotionally for each other. The keyword there is “emotionally.” Being less emotionally available for those grieving alongside you can send mixed messages to them as well as harm you in the long run. Grief begins to fade when you explore your emotions over the situation; when you hide those emotions deep down you aren’t able to explore, discuss, and accept them, so it can take longer and be more difficult to heal. This also applies to another practice: you should not ignore the pain if you feel it. Sometimes there is a belief that if we ignore our pain it will go away. That may be the case for a scratch, but you may find the opposite happens with grief. Trying to ignore that pain does not get rid of it, the grief will still be hiding in your mind until it can be properly addressed, and once it is addressed one can begin to heal. There is no shame in feeling the way you do.
What "Healing" Means
Finally, sometimes we worry about healing after a loss because we worry that we will “be over it.” We get worried that the person will be forgotten to us or that we should grieve for the rest of our lives so their memories live on and we can show how much we love them. The truth is that healing does not mean “getting over it” or forgetting about the feelings you had for someone or something, but rather healing is accepting that they are gone and that there is nothing more we can do. This can be difficult to come to terms with; maybe you are grieving right now and the idea of not thinking about them as much concerns you, but healing is not forgetting, it is understanding and acceptance.
Marisa is currently a Master's Level Intern from the University of Baltimore, offering reduced fee therapy to meet the community's diverse needs. She specializes in feminist-based beliefs, LGBTQIA+ exploration and affirmation, anxiety and depression.