Grief is not something to be fixed. Grief is a natural process that occurs when one experiences loss of someone or something. It could be the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one. The process of grieving is different for every person and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It can happen over the course of a year or many, many years.
Growing up, I experienced several losses. The loss of a pet, friends moving away, death of a classmate, and even the loss of a parent. I didn't know how to grieve. I actually didn't question my grieving process until I was an adult. As a child, I felt many different emotions in response to the losses. Children who experience loss display a range of emotions, and it is only as we get older that we categorize these emotions and put expectations on how we respond to loss in our lives.
We are experiencing grief as a result of the pandemic. Job loss, loss of social engagements, changes in school environments, loss of daily activities and cancelled travel plans and events. There is also loss of simple things; smiles from strangers, hugs from loved ones, handshakes, and even public drinking fountains. You might be experiencing loss on top of loss if you are grieving the death of a loved one in addition to the added losses of the pandemic.
Reflecting on roughly a year ago, when life changed for many of us, it is important to pause and think about how we are processing so much loss. Not to judge our response, but to observe and offer love and acceptance to ourselves as we cope with loss. Anniversaries and markers of time often bring up parts of our grief process and can present some unexpected feelings and emotions.
Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a theory of grieving in the 1960's. She describes the phases that typically occur during grief. The grief stages are not set in stone and do not need to be processed in any specific order. Some people many skip stages or return to one they have already experienced previously, during their grief process.
These stages are not necessary for healing and moving forward. These are stages were developed by Kübler-Ross while she was working with families who had a family member who was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Some people find it helpful and comforting to understand the stages of grief when they are experiencing a loss. The stages of grief have been outlined as follows:
Denial - Ignoring the loss or pretending it isn't happening
Anger - Towards God, medical doctors, fate, or the person dying
Bargaining - Trying to keep the loss from happening, prayers in exchange for a miracle
Depression - Crying, feeling sad, overwhelmed, and reminiscing about the loss
Acceptance - Understand the loss and remember and celebrate the memories
Moving through grief is very challenging. Sometimes different stages come and go like waves. It often feels like the pain will never end. It's helpful to see it as a process and allow yourself the freedom to experience it the way you need to. It may also be helpful to have some strategies to cope with grief in addition to people who can support you in the bereavement process.
Making art, journaling, talking about your feelings and emotions, exercising, spending time with pets, can be helpful for processing loss. If you are involved in a church or religious group, it can be very helpful during your grief process. Joining a grief support group or talking with a Grief Counselor can help, especially if you are experiencing issues in response to your grief that seems beyond what you can handle on your own.
Acknowledge grief as a process and be patient with the process. Healing will happen. With time the pain doesn't go away entirely, but the experience of the grief process changes and becomes more bearable.