The Experience of Grief

RETHINKING THE EXPECTATIONS OF GRIEVING

"Blessed are those who mourn quickly and efficiently for they meet our criteria for managed care",

- Dr Alan D. Wolfelt.

The Stages of Grief and other informed theories on what healthy grieving looks like, has comforted but also compounded the effort to adhere to a universal human grieving process. I've discovered that raw grief doesn't necessarily follow the rules. In fact, it's such an intimately personal process, that we can't accurately predict any outcome at any time.

Long term or chronic grief, becomes an anomaly if we are to believe that the 5 stages of grief have a corresponding time frame. But our frame of reference for what constitutes 'normal' human behaviour is perhaps far too narrow. Our need to label the human experience in terms of normal/pathological, has not contributed to tolerance or acceptance that we are uniquely ourselves, as well as human.

If we can accept that there is nothing pathological about the experience of mourning, then we may also accept that after a great loss, prior normalcy is never regained. Loss means irrevocable change. This is simply natural. If we have faith of our place in nature, we can better receive the emotions that arise within us as 100% acceptable at all times. We're all doing our best.

WHAT GRIEF CAN DO FOR US

Grief is a deeply appropriate experience after loss. The relief from the pains of grief come when we choose to be completely present to the energies of sorrow. Eventually we come to accept the things we can't (or shouldn't) change.

When we companion the grieving, our work is to not disperse, usher optimism or hurry. When we don't impose order on emotions or on the chaos of feelings, we don't feel the need to 'recover' from our grief in any timing that isn't our own. When we support people to lean into their grief, to really feel the depth of their loss, grief itself can nurture recovery to a world forever changed.

THE GIFT BESTOWED ON THOSE WHO HAVE GRIEVED

The process of moving through grief is a transformation, for ourselves and for that which was grieved. We are broken down and then remade. Beyond the devastation, there is a gift for those who travel this path. We are brought closer to our inner strength and to our compassion for others. After the enduring pain, we glimpse the world in a new light. We begin to see the fragility of life, with fresh eyes of wonder, and we are able to live in a more intentionally rich and meaningful way. Eventually we may come to know that Life itself, is the rarest and most precious gift of all.

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