The Tricky Business of Grief
Grief is tricky business and no matter who you are, your demographic and even the life stage you are in we all will experience a type of grief and loss over our life span. I became passionate, yes passionate about the process of grief about fifteen years ago. Like most, the death of a loved one touched me personally. When I emerged from the heaviness of my experience, I noticed how Western culture can be intimidated and uncomfortable with discussing or expressing grief. What I noticed is that culturally we learn to experience grief much like a breakup, we are seemingly given an allocated time frame to move along with our feelings and memories. Unfortunately, that’s not the way grief works. Grief is individual, takes time, patience and grief and loss span across so many aspects of our lives. Grief is complex.
Types of loss commonly experienced are loss of a loved one, loss of a job or career, loss of a pet, loss of faith, loss of health and even loss of sexual identity.
Types of loss due to death can impact each person and family differently based on how the loved one died. Death by suicide is different than death due to an extended illness.
We used to talk about Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. That model was developed for those actively dying not those living in the experience of grief. This is not to say individuals who are grieving don’t experience, anger, denial, bartering, depression, and acceptance people do it’s simply not linear and what you experience may be much broader. Additionally, grief and loss can cause not only emotional challenges but physical as well. You may feel physically ill, feel foggy, forgetful, and have difficulty sleeping. Grief effects our limbic system as well as the pre-frontal cortex. This can throw off how we regulate our emotions, our concentration levels, our ability to multi-task and our memory. Hormonal changes can also affect eating and sleep patterns and can cause anxiety and restlessness.
I sometimes receive odd looks when I state how much I like working with individuals processing grief. The fact is I do. I find it extremely rewarding work to hold space, validate an individual’s experience and have the compassion to walk with a client down their unique road named grief.
Working at MCSP has allowed me to expand how I work with clients and grief. I like to take a collaborative approach and work with my clients to understand not only what is happening in their body but how they can use their own body to regulate, resource and be with their grief in a safe way.
“Grief has been much researched and thoroughly defined. We have tried to conceptualize it in stages, in the fluidity of the way it ravages us, and in equations to stop its torment. Despite our best efforts, it remains elusive.”
–Jamie Cannon, MS, LPC