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.