If you are reading this you probably are living a life touched by the loss of a loved one.
You are trying to make some sort of sense out of it and searching for answers. There is a wealth of information about grief, loss, bereavement, and death and yet, you may still feel an emptiness in understanding this journey for yourself.
I wrote this blog post because the reality is that there are no words that adequately describe the feeling of losing someone you love. Personally, I started over using swear words to talk about my loss, my feelings, and my life. Prior to suddenly losing my husband, I was bothered by cuss words… then my life was turned upside down and every other word I used was a formerly taboo word.
My hurt was so intense that saying I was “sad” or “devastated” just didn’t seem to convey the depth of the pain I was living with after loss… I was “f***ing sad!”. Somehow adding a F bomb helped me to feel like my friends and family could better understand the weight of the feelings I was experiencing. I am not saying that you should start tossing around swear words to help yourself feel better… that could definitely alienate some people. I am saying that I get that the feelings and thoughts when you lose someone are heavy, hard, and layered. Just like life, death is not simple.
In this blog, I’ll address some of the lies that we tell ourselves about grief:
My grief will end
I will get over the pain
No one understands my grief
Grief is the same for everybody
+ What I tell myself instead
Grief Will End.
In trying to make sense out of loss, you have undoubtedly come across Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although Kübler-Ross states herself that these “stages” are not linear nor sequential, the common misperception is that grief is in fact a linear, direct route and that it will end with acceptance.
In reality, grief is not linear nor does it follow these stages in any sort of order. You may experience all of these feelings at the same time or you may find moments of acceptance followed by denial. Grief is a beast and it does not follow rules.
You may feel like you are doing well and have accepted your new life without your loved one and then you are watching a commercial about laundry soap and you find yourself crying. You may be joyfully celebrating a niece’s college graduation and find yourself smiling with your heart full and also angry because your loved one is not there.
The reality is that you can and will experience the emotions related to grief at random, nonsequential times and sometimes at the same time! The feelings related to grief and loss continue to ebb and flow even after you feel like you have experienced each one and have found a sense of acceptance.
Perhaps, we should look at acceptance in a different way than accepting your loss… instead we could choose to look at the idea of acceptance as understanding that the loss and the feelings of grief will always be present in our lives. Accepting that grief will pop in every now and then in unpredictable and random ways- accepting that grief is now a part of who you are.
I Will Get Over It.
To be blunt- you won’t completely “get over it” and it sucks. Will it get “better”? Better is a tough word when it comes to loss.
The loss remains and the feelings related to the loss remain. It gets better in the sense that your life builds and grows around grief and loss. Dr. Lois Tonkin has discussed this model of grief for over 20 years. In a sense, it feels like it gets “easier” or “better” with the passage of time because you continue to have life experiences that fill up the space around your loss.
You become more than the loss. You will always know grief. You will also live a life full of experiences and you continue to grow as a person. The goal is to live a life where grief is a part of who you are but not ALL of who you are. Grief never ends just like your love never ends.
No One Understands Me.
Grief can be very isolating even when you have family and friends reaching out to support you. There will be times when you don’t want to talk with anyone and then other times when you want to talk but don’t know what to say or how to say it.
Most of the time we may feel like no one understands us or our pain. In reality, we don’t even understand our loss or our pain. We also may fall into the trap of believing that no one understands us because they have not experienced the death of a loved one. If we start eliminating those who want to support us because death has not touched their lives, then we are making ourselves an island that no one can access.
I believe the idea that no one else can understand us comes from the limited vocabulary for describing our loss. Without the “right” words we feel disconnected. It is not helpful for us to isolate ourselves. Grief is an umbrella feeling that includes other emotions that many of us have experienced at points in our lives unrelated to loss. When grieving, we feel sad, mad, frustrated, confused, hurt, and more.
In life, we feel sad, mad, frustrated, confused, hurt, and more, too. While our friends and family may not share your loss, they may have empathy and be able to provide connection because they do know about feeling sad, mad, frustrated,… just for different reasons.
Grief Is the Same For Everyone.
Sometimes, we will push away support from others because they are experiencing the same loss differently than us or because their loss is different than ours (child loss vs. parent loss vs. spouse loss, etc). Comparing and judging our experiences with loss with others is dangerous and not helpful.
Losing a loved one is hard all around whether it’s a parent, a sibling, or a child. It is HARD! Comparison occurs even among family members who share the same loss. For example, siblings who lose a parent, may isolate themselves because they believe that the sibling doesn’t “get it”.
A lot of this comes from the fact that our grief is unique to us and to our relationship with the loved one we lost. Grieving is not a competition with others, so we don’t need to make it one. Why make it harder when it is already hard enough.
What I Tell Myself:
Everyone grieves in different ways. Everyone shows their grief in different ways. As you grieve, you will journey in your own way. Give yourself permission and grace to know your grief. Know that loss is messy, convoluted, and hard. Know that grief comes from love- from being loved and knowing love with someone. Know that life will continue and so will your feelings of loss.
The hope is that you will live a life with grief being a part of who you are and not all of who you are. In other words, may you find your sunshine in the sorrow.
About The Author: Kathy Davis, LMSW
This blog post came from one of our very gifted Online Grief Therapist, Kathy Davis.
She has helped so many people determine how they want to live with and make peace with their grief. She is incredibly passionate about educating people about the individual grief processes because she has experiences personal loss and grief. She shares this blog from a place of complete honesty and vulnerably.
The team of Online Therapist at Resolve Counseling Group are blessed to have a colleague who understands the grieving process on a personal and professional level. Kathy enjoys working with individuals and couples.