Grieving is a Natural Part of Transition
I remember the first time I became consciously aware that I was grieving — like, that grief was what was happening. And as strange as that may sound, it’s not all that uncommon that people do not have a conscious awareness that they are in fact, grieving.
This (my) first conscious awareness of grieving came after becoming sober in 2010. Up to that point in my life, I was numbing or avoiding. Now, it’s not like I hadn’t grieved before – I just wasn’t aware that I had. I didn’t know that grieving occurred outside of someone dying. I had, like many people do, associated a grief response only with loss from death.
Transition and grief go hand in hand
If you are a regular reader, you’ll notice that I define transition in nearly every post. I do this mostly because it is widely misunderstood. The words transition and change are frequently and erroneously used interchangeably.
Change is an event – something changes. It was one thing and now it’s another. Transition is a period of changing – or a process of changing – from one state of being or condition into another. So a change may trigger a transition, but a change does not equal transition.
Grief is our natural, healthy, emotional response to a loss of any kind. My favorite definition of grief comes from The Grief Recovery Method: ” Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” This definition, in my opinion, is most true because it applies to so many causes of grief.
Grief is a natural part of transition because as we are changing and shedding what was and emerging into what is becoming, so many conflicting feelings may arise:
We miss them, but the relationship was abusive…. We got fired, but we were miserable at the job…. I am so excited to retire, but holy shit…. what do I do now? I’m so excited to be a new Momma and I am a complete mess….
And a gazillion variations of thoughts and feelings like this may arise.
How can someone not know they are grieving?
I mentioned earlier that the first time I really recognized or acknowledged a grieving process in my life was only a decade ago. I hadn’t considered a grieving process before that. With many hurts and losses in my past, I suppose I followed cultural norms and just ‘got on with it.’ Isn’t that what we are taught to do?
Cultural misconceptions of grief
My previous lack of awareness around grieving outside the death of a loved one is not uncommon. Many people think grief is reserved for the death experience only. For example, when sharing the observation of active grief due to loss of a part of Self, a common response is: ‘Yeah… I never really thought of it that way.‘ They don’t realize that grief exists on many levels of experience.
Culturally, we tend to think toughening up is the remedy, or that time will heal all wounds. Neither could be farther from the truth. Toughening up has never been noted as a cure for grief, and neither has time. It’s what you do with that time that may or may not help heal the grief.
Everyone grieves differently. The mark of grief is as unique as a fingerprint. There are no two people that will do it the same because no two people had the same experience or relationship to the person or thing that was lost or that changed. Individuals must be given the space and dignity to grieve in their own way as they need to grieve.
Cultural avoidance of grief
There is a cultural avoidance of grief. Continued grieving is often seen as a weakness or being ‘broken.’ ‘You’ve gotta get on with things, John...’ And while it is true that we eventually want and need to move back into the flow of life, no one can determine when that will be for us, what that will look like, or how we will get there.
But they can just love us on our grieving path….
We fear being judged for grieving
Fear of being judged for ‘grieving too long’ is real. ‘You just gotta get over it, Betty...’ ‘Aren’t you over that by now?…’ Such harsh words of judgement – often spoken without awareness – are anything but helpful.
Others struggle to deal with the way our grief makes them feel and speak these words out of fear and frustration. It’s as if the real words behind the question are: Why can’t you just feel better already?….because I cannot handle the way you feel!
People are literally afraid of not getting over a loss by a specific, ‘reasonable’ (who determines that?) amount of time. Not only do they experience the outside pressure, but additionally experience internal pressure that they create out of self judgment.
People of all kinds and degrees of loss and change who are still in the throes of their grief, worry that something is ‘wrong with them’ when they don’t get over it soon enough.
To grieve, is your birthright as a human
Grieving is a natural, necessary, beautiful part of ourselves as humans. It is our gift to be able to feel a loss so deeply. Grieving helps us understand how deeply we love. Through grief, we often find how much we appreciate.
Go easy on yourself with the grief. Let it flow naturally and don’t give two shits what anyone else thinks. They just don’t know.
And it’s not entirely their fault. We are taught and learn that it is best to stuff it down and get as far away as possible from grief. It’s a massive cultural misunderstanding that results in personal ignorance.
What people don’t understand, they fear. Go easy on others. Honor your grief and the grief of others. And teach others to understand and be compassionate to others who are grieving. There is no need to fear grief.
Grief is so much easier on everyone when we just allow it in its natural flow. Let something so difficult be as easy as possible for someone else. Or for yourself.
Grieving is part of transition
Any transition can result in a grieving process: new motherhood, retirement, empty nester, job loss, relocation, medical diagnosis, major injury, divorce, career change, relationship loss of any kind, death of a loved one, and more.
There are no rules around grieving. There is no right way, exclusive causes, or time constraints to who can grieve over what and for how long. Where there is an end to what is familiar that hits deep into the heart, grief will arise. And there is no value in comparing one’s grief to another because it is such an individual and personal experience.
When you recognize the presence of grief in yourself or another, please be kind. Allow the grief to be present and fully experienced. Be present for the other person – be present for yourself.
I would love to hear from you! If you have questions about how I work with women just like you, you can reach out to me directly through my contact page or right here, firstname.lastname@example.org