Grief is a natural part of life and it is also a natural process. There is a way through grief and sometimes that path is daunting and we don’t know where to turn. We all experience changes in life with some being more difficult than others. I have learned from specializing in grief, in the earlier part of my career, that grief is foundational to many of the issues that I see in counseling. Loss often becomes a pivotal milestone in our life that changes our story and us too if we allow it. Grief has the potential to enlarge us and open us to deeper understandings about life, others, and ourselves. There are actually gifts in grief that present uniquely for each of us. Carl Jung said, “ Go into your grief and your soul will grow.” It takes tremendous courage to grieve and understanding how grief moves in us – the educational piece is helpful to learn. People are often relieved to learn that what they are experiencing is normal and that grief follows a general timetable. However, please know this is different for everyone based on many factors.
Getting “stuck” in the process of grief happens if we don’t have the proper support, or if we have other unresolved losses in our life. Or, if we don’t honor it and give ourselves adequate time to be with it. Complicated grief can occur in approximately 16-20% of cases. Our culture unfortunately does a poor job in honoring the grieving soul, and that makes it more challenging to honor ourself in the process if we are just supposed to move on. This is very sad when it happens because the unresolved grief takes up precious space for living, is exhausting, and can even cause health problems.
We often hear that “time” heals. This is not true. The correction is that time does heal if we are actively working and moving through our grief. Resisting the emotions that arise in grief only solidify it until it comes around again through our life circumstances. Some feel that they will be overwhelmed like a tsunami with grief, some numb the pain, and the brave soul just surrenders and allows the normal waves of grief to come. It is in this healthy way of grieving that the shifts happen. It is always our choice, and there will either be unexpected blessings to receive or a negative weight to carry.
If we have loved we will grieve. It is the paradox of life. Grieving a major loss or working through tough transitions are taxing and draining. Unresolved grief can look and feel like depression and create anxiety as well. The hard news is it takes as long as it takes, but with support it is much easier to bear if it becomes burdensome. Gaining meaning and new perspectives from our grief experiences create new beginnings and helps us to cherish what we once held dear.