Everyone grieves differently.
The steps and process of grief have been defined and yet how people move through the process will look different for everyone. And, even though friends and family mean well, they don’t really understand fully what you are going through because your situation is unique to you. They make offer condolences, helpful and not. But, the relationship you had with the deceased is only understood fully by you.
People, whether they have experienced grief or not, can sometimes offer advice that falls in line with their own perception of grief that may not line up with your experience. Don’t worry about whether you are grieving correctly. There is no ‘correct’ way. Instead, review these grieving process truths for yourself and move through your grief in your way and in your time.
Grieving Process Truth #1: Denial
Denial is a tool we use when we are in survival mode. It helps us get down to business, to put aside the feelings, even momentarily, to function. In essence, denial is like a filter to help us only take on what we feel we can process in the moment. Many people use “keeping busy” as a form of denial to keep their mind off of the loss. Denial is only meant to be temporary as it is important to continue through the process of healing.
Grieving Process Truth #2: Anger
Because everyone’s loss is unique, it is not uncommon for the person who ‘left behind’ to feel anger. It can be anger towards injustice, the loss of the dreams of what the future could have held, and/or unresolved tensions. And while your loss is unique to your relationship with the deceased, others do understand. Anger is a time to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling. It is normal to be angry and is part of the process.
Grieving Process Truth #3: Bargaining and Guilt
Bargaining seems bizarre, but again, it is part of the process. Keep in mind as well, that the grieving process isn’t a step by step action plan. You may bounce around the steps and you may spend significant time on one and little time in another. The step of bargaining has to do with agreements you make to yourself and others about changes you want in response to the pain of the loss. Many times bargaining is an experience of guilt over the past or the relationship with the loved one. Give yourself time to explore your feelings of guilt, and talk to someone if needed.
Grieving Process Truth #4: Depression
Depression in grieving has to do with the sadness we feel in a loss. If it continues, it may become clinical depression and seeking the support of a mental health professional is important. Natural depression as a part of the grieving process allows us to be present with our pain. We are no longer dwelling in the past with our guilt or fantasizing about the ‘what if’ of the future (although these may come in and out of our process). There is no set number of days we will grieve or experience depression. It is not something we just snap out of. It is simply a place where we truly mourn.
Grieving Process Truth #5: Acceptance
Acceptance can be deceiving in that it is not to be confused with things going back to normal. There isn’t a ‘going back’ because something has changed and will never be the same. You will never be the same, and therefore acceptance becomes a place of a new normal, a new place of being ok in the altered definition of your world. Again, the other steps can come back into your life at anytime, to be revisited. This is particularly true around significant dates such as holidays, birthdays and dates associated with the passing.
Grief lessens over time
It is important to know that grief will lessen over time and yet may never fully go away, and that’s ok. Others may feel they move through grief quickly, while others spend significant time. There is no right or wrong way. The critical component to know in regards to grief is that you aren’t alone. There are numerous support groups for grief and counselors in the form of friends, therapists, clergy and more to help you when you need and ear, encouragement or support. Reach out if you feel your grief is more than you can bear.