What is grief?
In today’s first episode as part of an educational series, I define grief in a way you’ve likely never heard it described before. By providing relatable examples and some of my personal story, you’ll leave this episode feeling like you have a better understanding of grief.
When we understand that grief is more than just about death, we are able to shed light on all areas of our life that feel emotionally incomplete and begin the healing process.
Be sure to tune into next week’s episode, where I’ll be sharing why and how grief keeps us stuck.
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Victoria Volk 0:08
This is Victoria of theunleashedheart.com and you’re listening to Grieving Voices, a podcast for hurting hearts who desire to be heard. Or, anyone who wants to learn how to better support loved ones experiencing loss. As a 30 plus year griever, and an advanced grief recovery method specialist, I know how badly the conversation around grief needs to change. Through this podcast, I aim to educate grievers and non-grievers alike, spread hope, and inspire compassion towards those hurting. Lastly, by providing my heart with the ears and this platform, grievers have the opportunity to share their wisdom and stories of loss and resiliency. How about we talk about grief like we talked about the weather? Let’s get started.
Hello in today’s episode we are going to dive into the definition of grief. And I like to start with the dictionary’s definition, which is
defined as a noun of deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. And the example it gives is she was overcome with grief. The informal definition is trouble or annoyance; we were too tired to cause any grief. I just find it interesting that grief is defined as a noun, whereas I think anyone that’s lost anybody close to them, or has experienced trauma, or divorce, miscarriage, anything like that. To say it’s a noun I don’t know if that does it justice. I would like to say that grief is more like a feeling. And a grief recovery Institute defines grief as the normal and natural reaction to change or loss of any kind. And grief by any other name, such as stress, or burnout, even PTSD, sometimes you’ll hear the phrase complicated grief, maybe even depression is still grief. Grief is also the response to a change in or end of any familiar pattern of behavior. So, you know, consider the current times with COVID-19 with the racial and justice and unrest going on in the world. There’s a lot of grief in response to the changes. It is about mixed emotions also so you can graduate from high school and still be very sad and have grief over, leaving home, leaving your familiar environment, and patterns of behavior. And going into the unknown really, a woman can have grief when she has a child because especially I would say I’m speaking for myself, having my first child. Everything that you thought you knew about life about yourself; the things that you took for granted, really change in an instant, really. Someone who is dealing with addiction and perhaps are in treatment or are let’s say like myself, I’ve given up alcohol it’s been six months now. And I don’t have excuse me, although I don’t have grief around the alcohol itself. You know, you can see there’s dynamics kind of change in a relationship sometimes. And that’s kind of a side topic but, when it comes to addiction, and I’m not saying like, I was a full-blown alcoholic. Personally, I, I really just lacked some self-control at times, and it just really wanted to be a better role model for my kids. But someone who is going through treatment and addiction is all that they’ve known for several months, probably several years. That’s a life that they are having to say goodbye to. And often that comes with having to say goodbye to relationships that were unhealthy and, and hurtful, really. So we can experience grief more often in our lives than we think. Then just when someone we love passes away or dies. Grief is also the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there for you. Only to find that when you need them one more time, they’re not there. Or reaching out for someone who’s never been there for you only to find that when you need them one more time. They’re still not there. So this happens often too with family. You know, you can have a relationship with a parent, and you can feel like they’ve never been there for you. Maybe they have been haven’t been emotionally available. Maybe they were physically there. But like I said, emotionally, they were indifferent and not attentive to your needs, emotional needs, maybe even your physical needs, hugs kisses, things like that affection. These things that we long for growing up as children. You know, that’s how we understand connection. That’s how we understand how to build relationships and to let people in, right? So when we are neglected of that opportunity that grief is kind of stays with us. It does stay with us. And it’s kind of foolish to think that learning how to deal with grief in that way, as in like, you’re not like those feelings aren’t valid or aren’t needed to thrive, in relationships or in life. That greatly impacts you intuitive adulthood likewise, as an adult, you know, your family if you feel like, you know, that they’ve always been there for you, and then all of a sudden they’re not whether it is death that separates you or they move away. Um, you know that those are grief causing instances as well. So I think we tend to have this narrow scope, idea of grief. And I think that’s where a lot of people misunderstand that. Grief is more than just about death. Being a victim of sexual trauma. There is a lot of grief that can happen because of that because you can then experience it’s not just what was taken from you, but it is loss of trust, loss of safety, loss of security. It’s almost like putting fire or putting gasoline on the fire. You know, it’s like taking the screwdriver and just twisting it just a little bit more. It’s these intangible losses that we experience as a result of it a devastating life-altering experience, right.
So, I just really want you to consider and think about all the ways that you’ve been grieving and, and the things that you’ve been grieving that you never really thought that you are grieving until hearing this right now. So, as a kid, did you move a lot? Were you a military brat, like they say? Were you just really never were given the opportunity to create connections with others or you’ve maybe felt: “Why bother, we’ll be moving anyway in a year” if it was just this natural occurrence or you just like expected it. So you never did put the effort in, because you just didn’t want to feel that loss. Again. And that’s not just the children in the family unit that can be the parents as well. How often do military families move about from base to base and maybe even country to country and never can really settle. And maybe have a hard time doing so because, you know, it’s just you’re gonna have to say goodbye anyway, so why bother, right? Hopefully, that’s not the case. But likely it is. and likely you’ve experienced grief because of it – you and your children. So, or how about as a kid, you had, you know, your first dog. And because you’re moving, you had to give it away. So it’s not even just moving. This would be especially hard maybe for a child. But it’s not just the idea of moving it is, well, we’re moving and I have to give away my beloved dog. So it’s the loss of the relationship that that child has to the dog. It’s the loss of relationship that they have to what they knew is their home. And if it’s, you know, a different town and it’s saying goodbye to their friends, there can be many losses wrapped up into one larger experience. I just think that there are so many examples out there. We know graduating from high school, leaving your friends, getting married, can be a grief experience in a way too because depending on when you get married. Let’s say you don’t get married ’til, you know, later in life, late 30s 40s. You’ve had a long time to get settled in, set in your ways, and get used to how life is right? Come and go as you want> Do what you want when you want. You don’t have to really answer to anybody. There’s a lot of freedom in that lifestyle. And hopefully, you’re, you’re welcoming someone else into it and you want someone else into it, and that’s why you’re getting married. But that doesn’t discount the fact though, that it is a major change. And you may experience grief along with that. Maybe to your spouse to be doesn’t, is allergic to cats, and you have to get rid of your cat that you’ve had for 5,6,7 years. Who knows, right? Um, I could give so many examples. Let’s see.
There are mean, I mean, I could really think of some terrible examples, but that would be just depressing. Let’s see. So how about like, I just really am trying to get you to really truly think about all of the losses that you may have experienced that you really didn’t think about until now. You know, and I think too, like just in the context of relationships. You know, I’ve had friendships that have fallen away a few by my choice sometimes, because, you know, sometimes we get into different phases of our lives than those who are in our lives. And it can be hard to relate. It can be hard to find comments. analogies are common things to talk about. Not always but you know if it can happen and, and people can choose to, to just decide that you know what I need to move on from this friendship or relationship. And there is nothing wrong with that. But there’s always going to be one person who feels maybe slighted or grief or sad or maybe angry. Because grief happens in the context of relationships and, you know, aside from those intangible losses, but because it happens first in the context of relationships, just think about all the different relationships that you’ve been in. And people have come and gone out of your life. And maybe, like I said, maybe it was a situation that you chose to back away from. You know, and something might remind you of them and take you back in time and you feel like Gosh, I wish I would have said this, or I wish I would have done that differently. Because grief two is anything that we wish would be different, better, or more. And, and that’s in the context of relationships. And it can be with someone who is living and someone who has died, I can still wish that my relationship with some loved ones would have been different, better or more. And it’s a loss to have hopes, dreams, and expectations. So especially with like miscarriage. When you lose a child It doesn’t matter if it’s nothing carriage or you just lose a young child or your child at any age really, because you always have these hopes and dreams and expectations. As a parent these as you know, you, you expect that they’re gonna outlive you, first of all, you never expect that you’re going to bury a child you never hope to. And I just, I could not imagine so my heart goes out to you if you’re listening to this. And that has been the case for you, but I, it is, that is, that is grief. And I’m sorry, but grief is not a noun. Grief is not a noun, it is a feeling and you know, the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations that you would have for your child upon them passing away. That’s really hard to get over. It’s really, really difficult. And likewise, if you’re in a relationship with someone living and they are in your life, you know, sometimes you can’t choose your family, right? And you wish that the relationship would be different, better or more. That’s grief as well. So I’ve kind of talked a lot about like different things that cause grief. And, you know, I really highlighted the fact that it starts in our childhood often with, you know, a loss of a pet or moving. You know, in my instance, my grandmother passed away when I was seven. dad passed away when I was eight, no losses really close together. And you know, my grandmother lived with us while she was sick as well. So, I saw that You know, I grew up
you know, I grew up seeing sorrow, and it just was not dealt with, like an emotion would be, or should be, you know, handled with care. And really I think that’s really my message for today is grief is a feeling to be handled with tender, loving care. And I think if we can look at each other and society and see and understand that we’ve all lost something or someone we all grieve something or someone Look at someone as they’re passing by in the street or, you know, the cashier woman at the checkout line or, you know, maybe the delivery guy that’s kind of being a jerk, you know, we’ve all lost something or someone and to be able to look at someone with empathetic eyes and know, I’ve lost and I agree if something or someone to because grief unites us all, every single one of us, it doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t care, your ethnic background doesn’t care of your economic status. And if we can look at each other, like children with backpacks, full of rocks, is grief rocks these grief experiences that we’ve been putting into our backpacks all of our lives. If we could actually physically see those backpacks think we would look at each other a little differently. We’d probably treat each other a little differently to right. Some other grief experiences which I didn’t even cover earlier but like loss of health, I can be a big one. I mean really, it’s like if you’ve been healthy for most of your life and then all of a sudden you have this devastating diagnosis, whether it be terminal or just chronic. Or, you know, you lose in the, you know, a leg or an arm or you know, something where it, it’s a changing or changing your pattern of behavior, right? It’s going to change your entire life. You’re going to have a grief experience with that incarceration. separation from siblings or friends. Like kids in foster care, environmental or climate losses. You can, let’s say your house burns down, you lose everything. You know, your pictures, your losses, that’s again your loss of safety or loss of, you know, where do you go from there? It’s a big change, right? You can also lose hope. And after so many years of grief, I think I got to the point where I kind of had lost some hope. And, you know, I just got sick and tired Of being tired of feeling the way I was feeling. And yeah, it’s you. There’s just grief is just so much more than just about death. And then we see it on the news. So you see, see it in the newspaper, you see it on TV, the lady in the grocery store, sharing her grief stories. You know, she’s not saying it like that, but she’s talking about you know, maybe she lost her job or you know, but people don’t use the word grief, right, grieving, they tell you the story. They don’t tell you how they feel. Even though they really want you to know how they feel. You’re always going to resort back to the story and so it’s, it’s being a heart with ears and really listening and having an awareness of yourself as well; where you talk about the feelings instead of just, you know, being stuck on the story.
One of the things too that you know, because grief begins in childhood and, and in our youth. You know, we’re born with perfect harmony, intuition, intellect, and emotion like it’s perfectly in harmony. And, you know, by the age of three, we have learned 75% of the basic tools and concepts that we will use throughout our life. And there was a pediatrician who was interviewed was about grief, I can’t remember exactly, I think in the UK maybe. And he was asked: “When does the brightness leave their eyes?” You know, talking about children, and he said: “In middle school.” You know, and that’s 95% of our decision-making powers are established by the age of 15. So by the time we reach Middle School, we have already learned and received the tools and concepts that we will use for decision making. And that’s true when it comes to grief. Like how we are taught, the messages we receive, and how we deal with grief. We learned at a time we were age 15. So this is why it’s so important that we start talking about grief, like a feeling. We start talking about grief like we talk about the weather, and that we stop shying away from others’ pain and sorrow, that we start having some awareness around our own in the behaviors that we resort to, to avoid what is ours, what our feelings are. Because grief unites us all. In grief is not a noun. It’s a feeling.
So that is today’s episode, I feel like I have definitely shared the definition of grief that is more than just about death. Next week, I will be sharing how and why grief keeps us stuck. So I hope you tune in for that. Until next time, take care.
From my heart to yours, thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being a heart with yours. And, if you’re hurting, know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love, my friend.