Let's Talk Grief
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Welcome to the Best Self Blog! In this blog, we will talk all things grief & loss. I want this to be a safe and welcoming space for you, as a reader, to learn and talk about grief in a free and non-shaming way. Grief is never something that should be met with shame; rather it is something that should be met with empathy, validation, and support from not only others but ourselves.
"Grief only exists where love lived first" - Franchesca Cox
We cannot expect to love and be loved without having to experience grief. It is a natural and undeniable part of us humans being wired for connection.
So! Let's talk grief! Throughout this blog, I will be addressing both common loss and ambiguous loss. What's the difference? Great question! Common loss is the passing of a loved one while ambiguous loss is a vague and unclear loss, such as the loss of a job or the loss of a partner or family through divorce. Ambiguous loss can leave us feeling all the same emotions experienced with common loss but have no understanding around how to name our emotional experience or how to address and heal from our loss (stay tuned for a future blog with an in depth discussion around ambiguous loss).
In this blog post, I want to focus on common loss. In particular, what may get in the way of us grieving our passed loved one(s). There are three main areas that I've seen get in the way of our grief journey: myths about grief, influences on our grief, and expectations. I refer to these as the powerful three as their impacts are mighty and can keep us from addressing and properly healing from our loss(es). So let's break each one down and dig a little deeper into how they impact our grief journey.
"No rule book. No time frame. No judgement. Grief is as individaul as a fingerprint. Do what is right for your soul." - Unknown
One of the most common grief myths are the stages of grief contributing to the belief that grief has a timeline. The stages of grief were originally developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for those who are dying, not for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. This model (known as the Kubler-Ross Model) is so popular because it's the most well known and it provides individuals with a timeline and structure; leaving them with, what appears to be, a sense of security around effectively moving through their grief and healing from the loss. The truth is, there is no timeline on grief and it is not a linear process; it does not move from one stage to the next upon completion of a stage. Grief never ends, it only changes over time.
"My healing began with giving myself permission to grieve." - Angie Cartwright
A big obstacle to welcoming our grief journey is not allowing ourself permission to grieve. This lack of permission is influenced by various different elements. One of the most influential elements is that of our family of origin. I encourage you to explore the following questions: how was grief addressed/handled within our family? Was it welcomed? If so, how was it welcomed? Or was it met with shame or encouragement to ignore it? In exploring these, it can bring light to what was modeled for you around navigating grief. It can help you identify if permission was ever granted for you to grieve the loss. This permission, or lack thereof, to grieve can also stem from how grief is discussed within our society. If you are experiencing (or have experienced) a lack of permission, I want to create a space right now to say it is okay for you to grieve! It is okay for you to feel all the emotions that come with loss, the pleasant and the not so pleasant! It is okay to grieve in a way that feels right for you! Now, I want to create a space for you to welcome that permission. How can you provide yourself with permission to grieve? How can you allow space for you to be gracious with yourself around your grief journey and not place so many expectations on your process?
"Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness." - Deborah Day
Grief is a natural human experience. As long as you are addressing it, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone's experience and process looks different. However, because of the grief myths we've heard along the way and the influences on grief we may have encountered, expectations around how grief should look and be navigated (if at all) has been developed. I can't tell you how many clients I've sat with that have communicated, "My family/friends/spouse/coworkers tell me I should be over this by now and just move on." From the impact I've seen this comment have on individuals, I believe that is the most harmful expectation we could place on ourselves or others. Expectations can leave us striving for something that is not feasible or avoid working towards something all together. What grief expectations are you trying to live up too? What grief expectations are you avoiding right now? Are they resulting in you not addressing your grief? I encourage you identify these expectations (if they're present), validate your experience of them and why they're present, and relieve yourself of those expectations and remember...
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no timeline. It's not a linear process. You don't have to morph your grief process to fit the expectations of others. You grieve in a way that makes sense to you!
Here's to living a better life as your best self!
Brittany Squillace, MA, LAMFT