What to Expect When Grieving Someone
If you have lost someone you love, you know what a difficult process navigating grief can be. You may feel as though you are in a dark place and that things will never get better. This is not the case at all; in fact, it’s more than possible that things will become easier, and there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel. If you want to know what’s normal in the grieving process, read on to learn more.
Trying Not to Face the Pain
If you are grieving for someone, then you may try and avoid experiencing the pain that comes with your loss. You may try and ignore it or feel the need to move on as fast as possible. This is normal, but you have to understand that if you try and keep it from surfacing, this will only create more suffering in the long run. If you want to heal truly, you need to face your grief, and you need to actively deal with it as much as you can. As a society, it’s ingrained in us, since the time we were babies, to not cry. We are shushed from the day we are born if you think about it! So, whether we are in physical or emotional pain, the truth of the matter is: we need our tears. Tears are a natural bodily function of release.
On the flip side, many people think that if you do not cry, you are not sorry about the loss that you have experienced. Crying is a normal way for you to respond to sadness, but it is not the only way. It would be best not to avoid crying, but not feeling like you need to cry is also very normal. Just because you are not shedding tears like everyone else doesn’t mean that you are not taking the loss as hard. For some, the tears may not come for several weeks, months, or even years. Grief is funny like that; it’s often cumulative losses that build up in the soul that eventually cause a flood of emotion. And, if the grief isn’t expressed with tears, I would guarantee the grief is manifesting in many other ways.
In the early days after a loss, when you’re busy looking up information about cemetery grave markers, choosing a casket, and making all of the necessary arrangements, it’s normal to be in reactionary mode, not really being able to process the loss that occurred. Often, it’s after the funeral, when the guests have all left, and life settles back to normal for everyone else, where reality sets in – as does the pain.
Replacing the Loss
We are taught how to acquire things (or people), not what to do when we lose them. When we lose someone, something, or a pet, in time, we often find ourselves attempting to replace the loss. We so badly want to fill the void that the loss caused. Rather than addressing the pain associated with the loss instead, we have this belief that by having someone, something, or another pet to direct our love and attention to that we’ll feel better. And, we might – for a time. However, if we accepted that no one or thing we love so dearly could ever be replaced, we would be forced to deal with the pain, wouldn’t we? Because once we know this to be true, we can’t un-know it. It’s normal and natural with loss, but it certainly is far from helpful for our recovery.
I’m hard-wired for isolation; it’s truly a tendency to retreat when I’m feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, or overwhelmed by life. What I know about myself is that I do need time to be alone and reflect. I need to sit and stew in my emotions while I process them. I’m not a candidate for “talk therapy” for this reason, as many reading this can probably relate to. I’m also empathic, easily taking on other people’s energy and emotions, which makes it doubly hard when dealing with my own “stuff.” Also, when I attempted to speak up in the past, and the conversation became about the other person, it only reinforced the tendency to isolate myself in my grief.
Healthy isolation isn’t a problem if the intention is, as I mentioned, for time to reflect and process. However, if you find yourself isolating and drinking, and isolating and cutting, or isolating and watching porn/online shopping/Netflix-binging incessantly, then you may have an isolation issue. If you find yourself saying “No” to outings and invitations from friends or loved ones on a continual ongoing basis, you’re probably isolating yourself. And, if you aren’t talking to anyone about anything you’re experiencing, you’re probably working extra hard at isolating yourself.
Isolation adds to the gunk you’re already feeling. Because not allowing your pain to be seen or heard only makes you feel more alone. We do not heal on an island of one; we heal in community.
Attempting to Stay Strong
You may also feel the need to be strong for others if you have experienced loss. Feeling scared, frightened, or even lonely can be a normal reaction if you have lost someone. You have to remember that crying doesn’t mean that you are weak. You don’t need to protect your family and friends by trying to put on a brave front. In fact, showing the way that you truly feel can help both them and you. Often, it takes someone to go first in sharing for others to feel as though it’s also safe and okay for them to share, too. Therefore, allowing your vulnerability to show will likely have an impact on those around you. Sure, there may be those who would prefer it if you would keep your mouth shut. However, as I mentioned, that is only causing more harm in the long run. Permit yourself to feel how you feel and express what you need to express. Grief shared is grief diminished. And, especially when a loss leaves children behind, I speak from experience when I say that having open and honest communication about death, dying, and grief can change how children process their grief well into adulthood. Avoiding those conversations with children while they’re young is a great disservice to their emotional health later in life. By shushing a child from expressing their grief and sadness only causes more harm. And, no one has to die for a child to experience grief. Whatever struggle a child is having, if they don’t feel like they have a safe space to talk, they will isolate just as many adults do. Isolating adults were once isolating children.
“Just take up a hobby,” someone may say to a griever (thinking this is helpful advice). Or, “I’m keeping myself busy by working overtime,” a griever may say.
Keeping busy doesn’t change what happened. Keeping busy doesn’t erase the feelings stuck within you either. And, keeping busy only helps pass the time, which only passes, too, by the way.
Keeping busy does nothing for healing and moving forward. You may think you’re doing great while you pour yourself into your work or jump headfirst from one hobby to the next. But all you’re really doing is preoccupying your mind from getting too quiet so you can hear your heart. It’s painful there, in your heart, feeling all the feels. I know this to be true like every other griever out there.
Getting quiet is the fastest way to getting beyond the stuck feelings, though. It’s the path of most resistance but reaps the greatest rewards when confronted in a guided, supported, self-serving and loving way.
You’re already busy going, going, going…you may as well be going in a positive direction, taking action for positive change rather than doing all the things in an attempt to avoid. Be like the buffalo that heads directly into the eye of the storm; they don’t run from or skirt around. No, they go straight through. That’s what it takes to get beyond the pain, too.
Feeling like the Grief Won’t End
It’s very normal for you to feel as though the grief you are experiencing is never-ending. You may also feel as though you should be “over it” by now. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you have been grieving for well over a year or ten years. There’s no set time frame on how long you should be grieving, so make sure that you understand that this is normal and put yourself first.
Time passes; it doesn’t heal our wounds. It’s the action we take within time that helps us to process, work through, and emerge on the other empowered and feeling alive. We often feel like we don’t have choices in grief. I’ve read various shares on social media about how grief makes you feel isn’t a choice. That is correct. We don’t choose to feel how grief leaves us feeling. However, we do then have to choose if we want to remain in those feelings.
We have a choice if we continue to ruminate the story of what happened, replaying all of the details over and over in our minds.
We have a choice to be taken back to those excruciating, put-you-in-the-fetal-position feelings, or if we share from a place of love and compassion without the emotional dis-ease taking us back in time over and over and over again.
We do have choices in grief, and whether we’re taking action to move forward or ruminating – either is a choice we make each day that passes after a loss of any kind.
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