If you have experienced loss, you may have asked yourself, “How am I supposed to move forward?” You have likely experienced the painful reaction of grief. Grief can be explained as a gradual undoing of the psychological ties that bound you to your loved one. While losses can be diverse in nature and severity, this can make grieving difficult to establish expectations for it and determine how healthy your own process is. It can also be difficult to determine how or whether or not to receive help during grieving. While none of our losses will look and feel exactly the same, here are some elements to remember when grieving or supporting loved ones who are:
Allow the loss to be acknowledged
Losses may be physical or symbolic. Physical losses are tangible losses such as death, the burning down of a house, or a stolen possession. Symbolic losses are psychological in nature and can include ending of a relationship or loss of job. Despite the fact that symbolic losses can be extremely painful, they are often regarded as less important because they are not seen, but that is simply not true. Take the time to slow down and notice how these symbolic losses are impacting you and allow yourself the necessary steps to grieve. Losses always result in some sort of deprivation.
Grief is work
As difficult as it may be, it is necessary to understand that grief is work for the griever. The process of unpacking and assembling the pieces requires a great deal of emotional and physical energy. Grief is something that needs to be resolved in order to live in wellness. The way to move forward is to walk through it to the other side. The work not only involves mourning this loss, but also the loss of hopes and dreams for the future that involved the loss.
Don’t put a timeline on it
Many people know (or at least have heard) that grief exists in phases. While I will not name and identify phases of grief, as they differ in names according to theories, it is important to understand that these phases may not occur in linear fashion, nor take a set amount of time to walk through. Allow yourself or your loved one to experience their process as it comes, and be willing to open yourself to the idea that grief may take several months or even years. People can experience a rainbow of emotions, which can resurface even years beyond the actual grieving process. Support others by being open and willing to engage in conversation, and accepting that hurt may exist far beyond yours or their expectations.
When to Receive Help
While many people who grieve find comfort in being close to loved ones and sharing memories and experiences, it may become apparent that receiving further help may be of value. One indication of this may be someone just needs more space to talk, or feelings are coming up that are both complicated and conflicting. Another indication might be someone is having a difficult time being present in the here and now. Having a therapist to walk along side can be a healing experience, while the person grieving has a processing partner who is dedicated in helping pick up the pieces and find a new meaning.