Part 1 – Understanding and Healing From Grief

 

I wrote this series for two reasons. First, this series is a quick, easy-to-understand guide about grief, the stages, how to cope, heal, and where to find more information. It’s my hope by reading this, you’ll learn just enough to know how to be a help to someone you know who’s grieving.

So many family members and friends feel obligated to say something witty to help a person in mourning. Yet, those same family and friends have no idea what helps and what doesn’t. This guide will not equip you as a grief counselor, but it can make you useful when someone needs your help.

Second, and most important, this guide is for the person experiencing the emotional throes of loss. I don’t know where you are in your grief journey, but I know you are in one or more of these stages right now. Sometimes, when in grief, you can revisit emotional places over and over. Posted below are links to the different sections of this series.

You can either read from start to finish, or pick those areas where you are, or where you think you are. The grief journey is YOUR journey, but please don’t do it alone. At the end of this series, there is a section with books and online resources.

You can always reach out to me HERE.

Let's Begin...

Grief. What is it and how does it affect us? When we lose a person or pet that is close to us, the place where we held them in our lives now feels empty. The same is true for “things”, perhaps a ring, a card or a photo. It could be anything we once had for years that reminds us of younger times. When lost, we no longer have the means to touch or see that person, pet, or thing. When no longer in our midst, our only certainty is we don’t know how our life will be without them.

The emptiness, or grief, touches every aspect of our lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, grief is a natural reaction to loss.

Grief also includes the vacuum we feel within us from situational changes. Those could be a loss of independence from serious medical conditions, the end of relationships, or employment status. It’s not uncommon for retirees to struggle after decades of work, and then suddenly find themselves in a void. They grieve the sense of purpose they once knew.

It is important to recognize the many aspects of grief to find healing. If you are experiencing the effects of grief, know that you are not alone. This article will discuss the types and stages of grief, and look at resources to help you.

natural grief

Types of Grief

The effects of grief appear in various forms, each with unique challenges. In this section, we’ll look at each type of grief, the cause and mental, emotional, and physical effects. Each person has their own grief journey and timeline based on the circumstances, self-care and support.

When experiencing grief, the best thing to do is acknowledge it and not let others dismiss it or expect you to be “over it” within someone else’s timeframe. It’s okay to acknowledge the grief you feel. You’re honoring the importance of the person, pet, or thing that’s now gone. Humans are emotional beings and it’s natural to feel the effects of loss. This leads us to the first type of grief in this article.

Natural Grief: Understanding the Process

Natural grief is an inherent response to loss that reaches across cultural boundaries and individual differences. Various forms of loss prompt the feelings of grief, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or losing a cherished aspect of life.

Causes of Natural Grief

The primary cause of natural grief is the emotional and psychological impact of losing someone or something of great importance. It is part of the human experience, developed from our connections, and the emotional investments we make in people, relationships, or circumstances.

Mental Manifestations

Mentally, as we navigate natural grief, our minds churn with thoughts, attempting to comprehend our shifted existence. When considering the loss, we become caught in the spin of disbelief, denial, or struggling to accept the reality of the loss. Intrusive thoughts attempt to replay the last moments, conversations or experiences, and that leads to “what-if thinking”. That approach places blame on others or ourselves and creates regret. None of that is helpful. With acceptance, the mental processing is part of facing the absence and adjusting to life with our new normal.

Emotional Expression

Emotionally, experiencing natural grief can make us feel caught in a storm of emotions. Intense sadness, and even moments of anger. The emotional spectrum is not linear. Emotions can ebb and flow, according to each person’s grief journey.

Physical Impact

Natural grief can take a physical toll on the body. Fatigue and disruptive sleep patterns can reflect the emotional exhaustion from experiencing deep loss. The body's response to emotional stress can manifest as appetite changes, energy fluctuations, and physical discomfort. These physical symptoms underscore the interrelation of the mind and body during the grieving process.

Natural grief is an innate response to significant loss. It’s caused by the emotional ties we form, and manifests beyond mental and emotional realms to impact us physically. Understanding natural grief and how mental, emotional, and physical effects present themselves is an important element for healing and adapting in a new version of life.

Anticipatory Grief

 

Anticipatory Grief: Navigating Emotions Before Loss

Anticipatory grief is a heartbreaking journey of emotions that begins before an expected loss. When a loved one’s health fails, or after serious injury, we often have awareness of a potential passing ahead. This type of grief occurs when there is a known impending loss, requiring mental preparation.

Causes of Anticipatory Grief

The primary cause of anticipatory grief is the awareness of the imminent loss of a loved one. Anticipatory grief enables individuals to process the upcoming change emotionally and adapt to their new life situation.

Mental Landscape

Mentally, anticipatory grief arrives with a busy mind. Individuals may contemplate the future without their loved one, imagining life after their loved one passes, and mentally rehearsing scenarios. The mental preparation can help as a coping mechanism to provide space for reflection and emotional readiness. Yet, it can also wear a person down, add extra stress, and overwhelm as seen in the next section.

Emotional Unfolding

Anticipatory grief brings a mix of emotions. Individuals may also contend with a mix of emotions, ranging from sadness, anxiety or fear, and then find themself in moments of acceptance, or unexpected joy in shared memories. Knowing a loss is approaching, a person trying to prepare for the inevitable can begin questioning themself. “Am I doing enough?… or too much? Am I being so busy that I’m not focusing on my loved one?

This emotional roller coaster reflects the complex nature of anticipating a significant life change. During this time, it’s important to include moments for self-care. Consider your interactions with your loved one, to include forgiveness and love. Let them talk and be understanding of the last messages they feel are important. This can be a time of emotional healing. Not allowing that can later be a seed of regret.

Physical Impact

Anticipatory grief can present physical challenges. Some of those include fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, unhealthy eating, tension, headaches and more, as physical symptoms vary according to the emotional strain.

Navigating anticipatory grief is undoubtedly challenging, but it’s essential to recognize your feelings as a testament to the depth of the love and connection shared. Seeking support, whether through friends, family, or professional avenues, can provide a vital lifeline during this emotional journey. Accept the anticipatory grief process and allowing yourself to feel a range of emotions is a courageous step toward eventual acceptance.

During this challenging time, remember anticipatory grief reflects the interpersonal bonds created over a long period. The emotions felt amid an anticipatory grief period can be a pathway to healing, while as you navigating the complexities of saying goodbye.

complicated grief

Complicated Grief: Navigating the Complex Landscape of Loss

Complicated grief is a profound and intricate emotional response to loss that extends beyond the typical grieving process. Unlike natural grief, it encompasses a prolonged and intensified struggle with the pain of loss, hindering the ability to adapt and move forward.

Causes of Complicated Grief

The causes of complicated grief often relate to the circumstances of the loss. Sudden death, traumatic experiences, or difficult relationships with the loved one can make grieving more difficult. This is an important time to have a trusted support network available. The effects of complicated grief become more problematic for individuals that attempt to work their way through alone, without a network or healthy coping mechanisms.

Mental Struggle

Mentally, complicated grief can appear as a persistent and overwhelming preoccupation with the deceased. Individuals may experience intrusive thoughts, guilt, or an inability to accept the reality of the loss. The mental landscape becomes a challenging terrain, making it difficult for individuals to find peace or engage in the healing process.

Emotional Turmoil

Complicated grief involves intense and prolonged sorrow, often accompanied by a deep longing for the departed. A sense of hopelessness and despair may persist, hindering the ability to find joy in daily life. The emotional turmoil can lead to challenges in maintaining relationships and engaging in activities that once brought comfort.

Physical Impact

Like the other grief types mentioned above, complicated grief presents similar physical effects with fatigue, appetite, disrupted sleep, headaches, and muscle tension. Recognizing the physical symptoms is crucial to understand the interconnectedness of the mind and body in the grieving process.

When navigating complicated grief, there’s no recipe that says it turns on and off at a set time. It’s important to acknowledge that healing is a process that unfolds at its own pace. Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals is a vital step toward understanding and coping with the complexities of grief. Earlier in this article, I noted, “As humans, we are emotional beings”. Isolating ourselves does nothing healthy to help with healing.

Accepting the journey does not minimize the love shared with those we’ve lost. Accepting allows for a progressive transformation from the pain of loss to a place where healing can occur.

You are not alone on this journey. With time, patience, and the right support, even the most complicated grief can evolve into a pathway toward healing. You may notice the frequent use of the word “Healing”. Grief is not a disease, yet grief is hurtful at our very core and we need our heart healed from the sorrow.

grieving alone

 

Disenfranchised Grief: Navigating Sorrows

Disenfranchised grief is a unique and often unseen form of mourning that occurs when individuals experience a significant loss not widely acknowledged or socially recognized.

Causes of Disenfranchised Grief

A sad narrative continues to spread across our nation and world as political agendas and unkindness increases. Politically motivated groups seek to redefine the socially recognized and oust others that don’t align with their agendas. When a person’s mourning becomes invalidated by perceived social opinion, the sadness becomes amplified.

Examples of Disenfranchised Grief Amplified by Other’s Behavior

Social groups become “disenfranchisers” when they lessen the value of others. An example is the “defund law enforcement” movement. In their attempt to limit law enforcement, they send a message that public servants and attempts to protect our communities are unnecessary. They put their lives in jeopardy and minimize the mourning of families and loved ones associated with killed officers.

Unlike other forms of grief, this type becomes worsened by how others behave.

Disenfranchised grief can also appear from suicide or accidents that were deemed irresponsible behaviors. Regardless of how a person dies, all people are important and mourning is valid for those loved ones challenged by their loss.

Mental and Emotional Strain

Mentally and emotionally, disenfranchised grief can be isolating. Individuals may struggle with a sense of loneliness and invisibility as they navigate their sorrow. The absence of societal acknowledgment can lead to feelings of shame or guilt, making it challenging to express the depth of their emotions openly. This mental and emotional strain can create a complex landscape where healing becomes an arduous process.

Physical Impact

Disenfranchised grief can physically appear in different ways, often contributing to stress-related symptoms. Similar to the earlier types, fatigue, sleep disruption, and eating habits can emerge as the body responds to the emotional significance of unacknowledged grief. Recognizing these physical symptoms is crucial to understand the toll disenfranchised grief takes on both your mind and body.

Your emotions are valid, just as your grief journey is unique to you. Seek support from friends or family that understands grief. The key point here is those that “understand”. Many will try to offer suggestions or solutions because they feel obligated to be a help. When people love and care about you, that’s natural. Still, it’s best to get support from those that understand and have experience navigating these situations.

The healing process involves acknowledging and accepting your grief, even if it diverges from societal perceptions of how to get through this. Remember that your grief is valid, and your journey towards acceptance is your personal process. Pursue the support available to you. In time, you can find healing by acknowledging and expressing your disenfranchised grief.

A Review of This Section

Grief reveals an intricate nature and the disparate ways it evolves in people’s lives. The deep impact of grief, as discussed in this section, spreads into our emotional and mental health and physical well-being.

Natural grief and its comprehensive nature presents a legitimate response to loss, affecting individuals across cultural boundaries. The mental, emotional, and physical aspects of natural grief underscore the interrelation between each dimension in the healing process.

Anticipatory grief adds an emotional element to the discussion of grief. It forces us on an emotional roller coaster when considering an impending loss. Acknowledging and accepting the emotional journey becomes crucial for healing.

Complicated grief, a difficult struggle with the pain of loss, highlights complex situations when the grieving process becomes intensified. Recognizing the connected nature of mental, emotional, and physical aspects is essential for navigating this difficult landscape.

Disenfranchised grief introduces a unique perspective, emphasizing the silent sorrows individuals face when societal opinion is unkind. When societal attitudes are politically driven, the mental and emotional strain of disenfranchised grief, makes it important to seek understanding and support.

This section underscores the importance of acknowledging the diverse expressions of grief affecting emotional, mental and physical well-being.

References for this Section:

Doka, K. J. (1989). Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow.

Kübler-Ross, E., Kessler, D., et al. (2014). On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. Scribner.

Mayo Clinic. (2016). What is grief? [Brochure]. https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief

Shear, M. K. (2012). Grief and mourning gone awry: pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 119–128. (Free PDF Download)

Worden, J. W. (1991). Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner.

I am not a medical or mental health provider. I am a Board Certified Hypnotist trained through the American School of Clinical Hypnosis. I am also a Certified Coach and Accredited Stress Coach. The work I do is to help clients regain confidence, overcome fears, and ease stresses. Those methods are supportive of this topic.

This resource is not a substitute for mental or medical health advice. If some issues are outside the scope of my practice, I can refer you to those best able to help.  I am obligated by an ethical standard to pursue the best care for you and operate within the scope of my training. In many cases, even if you are being seen by a medical professional, I can help you if I receive a medical referral.  This is common practice, as many doctors refer to certified consulting hypnotists to complement their plan of care.

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