While the question posed by the title of this article may seem obvious, grief is a particularly interesting emotion. We all know that it is caused by an extremely unfortunate life event, such as the death of a loved one or a negative change of some sort but pinning down an actual definition that sufficiently describes grief is not a simple task.
It is easy to see how grief is commonly used as a synonym for other emotions such as sadness, hurt and frustration. Although there are similarities between these emotions, grief is an experience very unique to itself.
First of all, the times in life when a person truly experience grief are not fleeting moments that quickly fade away. People will always remember the periods in their life that were so upsetting and painful that they felt the true emotional discourse that grief entails.
On the other hand, feeling sad is a fairly common occurrence for the majority of individuals. Most of the time, sadness is resolved rather quickly, coming, and going without any lasting changes to life. With sadness, there doesn’t tend to be a process for working through the situation. This is the same for other emotions often associated with grief like hurt and frustration.
Grief is not a passing feeling that someone experiences for a moment or even a day, an experience that is forgotten as soon as the next emotion experienced takes its place. You are probably familiar with the term, “grieving process,” and this term really describes what this emotion is, a process.
There are multiple stages of the grieving process that people tend to go through, although the order and duration of these stages almost always varies according to the individual. What is universal, however, is that reaching a state of healing after an event monumental enough to cause true grief takes time, sometimes a lot of it.
Another unique aspect of grief is that, unlike weaker negative emotions, unresolved grief can very easily disrupt a person’s entire life. For example, we have all heard of people becoming completely derailed after a tragic event.
This can look like substance abuse, wildly uncharacteristic behavior, isolation from the outside world and complete loss of interest in hobbies and activities. Getting upset at a rude comment or becoming frustrated at a boss or colleague doesn’t possess nearly this much power.
Given that grief most certainly has the ability to become a detriment to an individual’s life far down the road, it is especially important that those experiencing it are allowed to sufficient time to work through the process.
Furthermore, dealing with grief alone is very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. Whether experiencing this emotion personally or being aware that someone else is going through it, being surrounded by those who love, and care is critical. Some emotions are too intense to be dealt with alone.
Although odd, grief can also be a series of conflicting emotions. The death of a loved one is extremely saddening, whereas the knowledge that they are no longer experiencing the pain and suffering that went on for a long time due to a terminal disease can be comforting.
Moving out of a home filled with years of fond memories and leaving behind a familiar city can certainly feel tragic, but the excitement of a new job, new school or new opportunities can ease much of the pain. Grief is an extremely complex emotional experience.
So, what is grief?
Grief is a lot of things occurring simultaneously. It is deep sadness, loss and hurt blended with release, newness, and resolve. Trying to place a concrete definition on such a strong emotion deprives the individual experiencing it the validation required to work through it.
Common Losses We Feel Throughout Life and How to Deal with Them
We all experience different forms of losses throughout our lives and we choose to cope with the intense and overwhelming feels that arise in different ways. There are so many types of losses and overcoming them is never easy. It is important to understand that everyone deals with loss differently and the feelings may last longer for some.
There are both positive and negative ways to cope, but it is important to have a bottom line understanding that moving forward rather than living in the past allows you to advance and overcome. Below are common losses that we feel throughout our lives and different ways to deal with them.
One type of loss that is very common during this time is job and income loss.
With millions of people currently filing for unemployment, job layoffs because of the pandemic have become extremely abrupt and unexpected. This leaves families without money to cover their expenses and feed their children. This type of loss can bring about intense feelings of uncertainty and anxiety because of financial instability.
A breakup or loss that occurs in a relationship can be sudden or anticipated.
This type of loss is extremely hard on the mind and can leave a person without motivation or goals. It may feel like the person’s whole world has collapsed, especially after a long-term relationship. When you are with someone for a long amount of time, it is common to feel very lost and struggle with finding your independence once again.
Another type of loss is the death of a loved one.
This is the most intense form of loss that is very significant and can completely change a person. It is the most difficult experience a person can go through and usually requires different forms of healing and recovery including counseling and other forms of support. It will likely trigger many different and challenging types of feelings and everyone deals with it in different ways.
Coping with Loss
Everyone grieves loss in different ways depending on the person and the situation they are going through. If the loss is sudden, one will react differently than if it was anticipated. It is normal to feel very irritable, angry, regretful, and sad or depressed.
Depending on what occurred, you may also feel very anxious, uneasy, and frightened. This may lead to a feeling of numbness or a lack of motivation. All of these feelings can be very intense and overwhelming, so it is important to determine ways to cope that work best for you.
If you like doing activities like reading, writing, painting, or crafts, you may find that these can be very therapeutic and distracting for the mind. You will be able to let go of the intense thoughts while doing something you enjoy.
You may paint or do a craft of something as tribute towards the loss or write about the emotions going on through your head.
Counseling and other forms of support from others are very common and normal during times of grief. Letting out your thoughts to other people who can provide advice and support can allow you to release the thoughts that are bottled up and repeating in your mind.
You can also get helpful insight from people who may have gone through similar circumstances and will realize that you are not alone throughout the process.
When going through loss, it is important to take care of yourself in order to stay motivated and energized while overcoming challenges. This means making healthy food choices rather than sticking to comfort and junk foods because the nutrients will help your emotional wellbeing. This also means getting adequate exercise to keep the blood flowing and stay physically active.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.