It’s easy to think of grief as being one feeling, emotion, and way of thinking. It may last a long time, short time, or you may spend no time at all with grief.
When you spend no time at all with grief after a loss, tragic event, death, etc., it usually indicates denial or shock.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, and there are many types of grief that can occur in a lifetime.
Comparing your grief with others is not helpful – acknowledge that miscarriages, losing a pet, friendships ending, racism, and generational patterns are all reasons to grieve.
You don’t have to be a certain type of bereaved person to claim your seat.
When you are able to label and articulate types of grief, you can begin to heal once you are willing to feel uncomfortable emotions. Grief work can be laborious.
It can also help you honor what you have lost, move forward, find freedom, be at peace, and love yourself when you didn’t know it was possible.
Grief can be an emotion of sadness or anger and can show up through coping techniques like dissociation or denial.
When you are experiencing grief, you can take as much time as you need to move forward.
You don’t have to justify how long it is taking you to heal despite unspoken rules you may give to yourself.
There is not a certain timeline that you “should be over it by now.”
With grief, you don’t have to experience it alone. There is support available to you, and it can be helpful to be heard by a person with a history of care, like a therapist or others who have experienced a similar.
There are several types of grief not limited to but including:
Anticipatory Grief: This type of grief is as it sounds. You are anticipating loss, death, or tragedy in your life. With the experience of the pandemic especially, you may have had a loved one in the hospital for a prolonged period of time due to many reasons.
If you lost a family member or loved one, and you knew it would happen eventually; you have experienced anticipatory grief.
Collective Grief: This type of grief is talked about frequently and is felt by a society, culture, or even world. There is a common bond of grief with people.
Some individuals may feel comfortable acknowledging what is happening. Others may not.
Often, this grief can go unnoticed because everyone around you is feeling it too but not necessarily talking about it.
Complicated Grief: Grief that is complicated has subtypes as well like chronic, delayed, and distorted.
Complicated grief is usually prolonged grief and inhibits your ability to engage in daily activities.
You can feel debilitated by loss and unable to move forward or have outbursts that you aren’t expecting when you are experiencing complicated grief.
If this happens consistently, a professional like a grief therapist can help you start a plan to feel better and give you grief support or grief counseling.
Masked Grief: Grief gets stored in our bodies as a way to cope with events that are harmful in our lives. It’s difficult to feel every emotion in the moment, and you may protect yourself by storing emotions for later.
Masked grief keeps the uncomfortable feelings caused by death, loss, change, or tragedy stored in your body.
Eventually, masked grief comes to the surface through physical symptoms and using maladaptive tools that no longer serve you.
Though this is not a comprehensive list, it is a starting point to understand that grief is not just one type of unexpressed sadness or anger during a short period of time.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach when it comes to grief, a grief reaction, or the grieving process, which is why a professional like a therapist can be helpful, whether you want to be preventative or currently feel uncomfortable with your status quo.
When you do experience grief, even if it is what you would label as normal grief, there are ways to help yourself.
Though intellectualizing, researching, and self-help strategies can feel effective in the moment, patience is key to healing.
Psychologist, Adam Grant, said, “Grief is unexpressed love.”
Some Considerations For Processing Grief With Patience And Love For Yourself
Honor, Respect and Get to Know Your Grief
When you begin bereavement, you can empower yourself through a changed perspective at any time. The timeline of your grief journey may not be clean cut and can resurface when you least expect it.
This doesn’t mean that you need to shame yourself for feeling sadness or anger.
You get to acknowledge the time it is taking you to go through emotional pain, misery, and despair.
These are normal emotions that will be felt throughout your lifetime.
Get to know your grief. Journal as thoughts come up. Be kind to yourself as you ride the many waves of grief.
Becoming familiar with your grief and understanding how it shows up and when it is can make it feel less scary.
If a loved one has died, find ways to honor them through sharing stories or carrying on traditions if that feels good.
Learning to honor and remember your loved one in a way that feels intentional allows you to hold space for them and your grief.
If you have experienced the loss of a role – which can come with death, job loss, breakups, etc. – take time to reflect on what you have lost, what you have learned, and what will be helpful to you in the future.
Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
Consider this as you navigate what follows loss for you.
While the open door may feel impossible to conceive following a loss, over time, it becomes more apparent and possible to be curious about.
Give your grief the attention it deserves. The goal of grief is not to move on; rather to learn to live life with this loss. Living with grief doesn’t have to be all consuming forever. Over time, you adjust and make room for what is new.
Consider Professional Support
When you talk about grief with a trusted family member, friend, grief counselor, or therapist; you are allowing yourself to heal. Denial within family units and friendship circles creates silos where feelings get trapped and unexpressed.
Acknowledgement may never happen, and it can feel like a lack of closure.
You are not making that up. What you feel is real. You still have choices.
You do not have to share with people you do not trust. You can create safe spaces within your life and set boundaries.
Sometimes, a family unit is not the safest place to share grief due to generational denial, violence, poverty, unhealthy family relationships, and substance use.
This may mean that you seek a family of choice through friendships and a professional like a grief therapist to guide you. Grief therapy or EMDR therapy can help you with intense emotion and wounds you may have experienced.
Grief can lead to depression and is often caused by significant loss in your life.
When you participate in your mental health, you can heal yourself from unresolved grief, even if that means you experience painful emotions.
Check Out Support Groups
The grief experience can feel daunting, and that is why it is important to have a solid support system in place.
Grief support group are also places to start your healing process by tapping into a trusted community who cares.
There are general grief support groups and support groups for specific death losses throughout the Denver Metro area.
For families, Judi’s House offers free support for children and their caregivers through age specific support groups in Denver.
Hospice organizations also offer support groups for a variety of death losses. There are support groups for caregivers of those with chronic illness and other medical conditions.
Support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide can be found at www.suicide.org. Support is provided through the National Alliance for Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Be Kind To Yourself
If grief were easy to express, people wouldn’t select maladaptive behaviors to avoid it. You are not alone in how you feel, think, and act.
This is why an objective opinion can help. Life can cause pain, and your mental health can be impacted.
Whether you think you are having a normal reaction or not, checking in with yourself and others in your identified support can help.
Be kind to yourself when it comes to experiencing grief regardless of how far you are from your grief. Whether it is months years. There is no timeline and no order to follow with grieving.
Thinking about grief as unexpressed love can help you to remember how much you cared about something or someone.
This doesn’t replace the void that the person, place, or thing left. However, it does allow you to move forward with self-love as you heal.
Grief doesn’t necessarily lessen; you just grow with strategies and tools that were within you all along.
If you miss someone, miss them. If you miss an event, time, or place; miss it. If you miss an activity or routine, that is okay too. You are not alone, and you get to grieve in a way that works for you.
Therapy can be an important part of the process, and when you allow yourself to show up in a different way than what you have always done, you begin to love again whether it is yourself or others.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC