When Grief is Complicated
Losing someone we love is always a heartbreaking and emotionally difficult experience. Grief is the word we use to describe the set of emotions we have and the emotional process we experience related to that important loss. Grief can feel gentle and straightforward or it can feel extremely difficult and consuming, or any variety of this. Grief is often a very natural process of healing from a loss. Sometimes, though, we can get stuck in the healing process and need support to move forward. It might be helpful to understand the different circumstances that might cause us to get stuck.
Grief is often a completely confusing, disorienting, painful and lonely experience. There are many elements of our modern society and culture that make this experience that much more difficult and lonely. Bereavement, grief and mourning are very natural and necessary experiences, and they have the potential to be traumatic and/or transformative. One of the greatest gifts the bereaved can receive is the presence of a compassionate companion. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to offer this meaningful and healing companionship to someone who is grieving.
The most effective way to mourn after a loss is to share your thoughts and feelings (grief) with a compassionate listener (grief companion). The Grief Companion HOLDS SPACE for those who are grieving by providing a safe and empathetic presence in which the mourner can begin to explore the terrain of their inner world. HOLDING SPACE for the mourner is your contribution to their care. The grief companion does not guide the mourner, instead allows the mourner to choose the path. True expertise of grief lies with (and only with) the unique person who is grieving.
More specifically, Grief Companionship is being present to another person’s pain. The Grief Companion is willing to go into the wilderness of the soul with the bereaved. This is a spiritual journey, not only an intellectual journey. The Grief Companion is committed to bear witness to the struggles of the bereaved without judgement, direction, or quick fixes. They allow the disorder and confusion that so often afflicts the bereaved. They trust that the bereaved will find their way through the jungle of emotion and joins their journey with compassionate curiosity.
Central to the role of Grief Companion is the art of honoring stories.
In telling the story of their love and loss, mourners:
The art of Grief Companionship involves slowing down, becoming acquainted with the mourner’s inner world, and to really listen as the mourner embraces the reality of their loss, their pain, important memories and search for meaning. Each of our Benediction therapists are equipped as compassionate Grief Companions and we would be honored to journey with you in your grief.
Have you have lost a significant person (or pet or relationship or opportunity) in your life? These significant losses can be terribly painful and disorienting. You know there is an emotional process to help you recover from that loss. This process can feel elusive, consuming or anything in-between! We have heard about grief before, and may even be familiar with the common emotions involved in grieving. But what are we actually doing when we grieve? Let’s clear up this grief thing!
Bereavement and Mourning and Grief are all words related to processing a significant loss. Bereavement is what happens to us—we lost someone important. Bereavement literally means “to be torn apart” and “to have special needs.” Aren’t those statements relatable? Grief is what we think and feel internally after a significant loss. This is a very natural process of integrating the loss and learning to move forward after the loss. Mourning is what we can do to externalize what we are thinking and feeling. Mourning is how we heal in our grief.
The grief process is so unique to each person and to each specific loss. Each of us manage our emotions differently. Some internalize emotion and others externalize emotion. Regardless of what we are feeling, different personalities land on different emotions more regularly—emotions like shame, anger or fear. We all have a different relationship with sadness, depending on our exposure to sadness and how sadness was modeled for us throughout our life. The emotions we feel about a particular loss are completely intertwined with the emotions we hold about the relationship with that person. If there was deep love and respect in our relationship with the person lost, then these feelings are going to be very present in the grief process. If there was tension or hurt or unspoken conversations, then those complicated feelings are going to be very present through the grieving process.
Now that we know we need to externalize our grief emotions through the process of mourning in order to heal, what does that even look like? This can take the form of journaling, artwork, listening to music or finding movement to express those internal thoughts and emotions. Mourning can be embraced and enhanced through conversations with caring people. Sharing about our loved one can be the most beneficial way to externalize our grief feelings, remembering our loved one and integrating their loss. We like to call this grief companioning. Each of our therapists are trained in this special way of being with those who are grieving, to soften their healing journey and to honor the person they have lost.