What comes to mind when you think of the word grief? Most would say death or loss, which is an understandable connection. When a loved one passes, often hear about the “stages of grief” in relation to our experience. These stages are often outlined numerically as denial 2) anger 3) bargaining 4) depression and 5) acceptance. However, what may be a shock to hear is that these stages are not linear and do not occur in order.
“Stages” of Grief
Grief is organic. It takes a life of its own, just like other strong emotions, such as love or hate. Instead of having a linear, step-by-step process, it ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, there is also no specific duration of grief. There is not a countdown clock that ticks away the amount of time you have spent in a stage. For example, imagine a loved one passed years prior, but a picture of them you have not seen in a while makes you tear up. You are experiencing grief in that moment, just not to the distressing extent you may have previously.
Feelings of Grief
Just as the stages of grief are not immovable, neither are the feelings one experiences during this process. While there are the more notable feelings outlined in the stages like anger and denial, there are so many more involved. Feelings such as confusion, rage, guilt, anxiety, sadness, betrayal, distrust, rejection, fear, abandonment, helplessness, and relief can be present during the grief process. One can instantly experience a feeling of rage and just as quickly move into a feeling of relief. There are no rules to grief and it is different for each individual. Identifying your current feeling is one step closer to coping and moving through the grief process.
Grief without Death
As I mentioned earlier, the grief process is often linked to the passing of a loved one. However, grief can be present in many forms of loss, living, or deceased. For example, a person goes through the grieving process after breaking up with a significant partner or moving on to a new stage of life (graduation, parenthood, etc.). Loss can be found in so many different areas of our day-to-day life, but grief is often the last concept we attribute our emotions to.
Oftentimes, our first inclination is to berate ourselves for feeling strong emotions about something that may be considered remedial to others. When looking at these strong emotions through the lens of grief, it becomes much more tolerable to process and move through. In other words, acknowledging your grief is the first step in unloading the weight of emotion you have been carrying. Now, you may ask, “Why do I feel sadness this week when I thought I was doing much better last week?” This, again, brings us back to the false concept that grief is a linear process. Not only does it ebb and flow, but it takes on a more circular pattern. More specifically, moving through grief is similar to riding a circular escalator (if one such thing existed). There are days when we may feel like we have been emotionally hit by a bus, fueled with fiery rage, or at peace. All of the previous emotions may be present more than once in the grief process. However, regardless if you are feeling acceptance one day and sadness the next, you are still moving towards your goal of healing. Some days will be harder than others, but processing your grief instead of pushing it away will allow the healing to take place one step at a time.
If you are struggling with grief, give Tx Harmony Counseling a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.