Most people think of grief as only something we experience after the loss of a loved one. Although that is certainly a time we can experience grief, it is not the only event that can cause us to grieve. In fact, most people who seek counseling are trying to navigate the grieving process after life changing events.
We grieve many things, such as:
Loss of a loved one
Loss of our marriage or relationship
Loss of our health
Loss of a child
Loss of our sense of self
Loss of career
Loss of our innocence
Loss of our faith
... and much more.
Grieving is a natural part of living and something that all of us will experience. How do we navigate these painful experiences in a healthy way? Many times when experiencing events that cause us pain like this we are not ready. Even if we felt it coming and tried to emotionally prepare, we're never really ready.
People are often uncomfortable in the presence of others' pain. So, it is not unusual to find that when we are grieving that people don't know how to respond to us in a healing, connected way. We may have people check in with us to see how we're doing and hoping we'll say "fine," some people may not bring it up at all for fear that they don't know how to have that conversation, people may share with us some inspirational quotes or scripture in an effort to rescue us out of our pain. They might even try to distract us with "fun" activities they hope will pull us out of our experience. Although people often have such wonderful and loving intentions, their responses to us in moments of pain can actually leave us feeling alone, minimized or misunderstood.
The process of grieving can also become complicated when we haven't learned how to put language to our emotional experiences. Maybe your family didn't value the role of emotion or viewed any emotion other than "happy" as weak or unhealthy. It is not unusual for people to grow up in households where you were expected to "get over it" or "stay positive" even when you felt pain to the core. Maybe you looked around for someone to connect with in your experience and had a hard time finding anyone. Or, when you have been conditioned to experience emotion without the ability to assemble it and put language to it, you may have trouble reaching out at all. Many people suffer in isolation.
Counseling for grief and loss can be a wonderful, collaborative journey. Partnering with someone who can connect with you, help you assemble your experience and navigate through it in a healthy way can be invaluable to living a full, joyful life after loss.
Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP, NCC Professional counseling and clinical supervision 9219 Middlebrook Pike Knoxville, TN 37931