Grief can be misunderstood; it’s often limited to the aftermath of the death or loss of a loved one. We live in a society where other types of loss are less understood and given less attention. We are often expected to be happy, excited, motivated, and ready for a new change, and less thought is given to other emotions that may be a part of the process. We may experience grief from several different scenarios, including:
- Moving to a new home, city, or going away to college
- Getting married or having a baby
- Getting a diagnosis, either mental or physical
- Having a child diagnosed with a special need, disability, or allergy
- Switching jobs or careers
- Losing a friendship or relationship
- Setting boundaries with family or friends
- Watching a child hit a new age or milestone
- Losing privileges, connections, or safety due to COVID
- Gaining sobriety from substances or habits
What these things have in common is that something is lost. Taking on a new job, while exciting and sometimes financially advantageous, still involves saying goodbye to coworkers. Having a baby or getting married requires losing your freedom and normalcy, even though it is often thought of as the best days of one’s life. Sobriety involves leaving behind coping skills that served a short-term purpose that are causing more harm than good now. All of these are often viewed by the world as wonderful, healthy, brave new steps, but fewer people acknowledge the loss that can be prevalent in them as well.
Living in a world that does not understand the grief that is being experienced can be challenging. It can be lonely or isolating, and if the event causing the grief is traditionally a happy one, that person may feel stigma to not mention that they are feeling sad or emotional. It also is challenging when the person does not know that what they are experiencing is grief! For some it is emotions that aren’t understood, for others it can be physical sensations, and for still others it can look like a period of depression. All these reactions, and many more, are completely normal. While experiencing grief, some of the main things that are needed is space to process what they are feeling, acceptance of those emotions, and supportive others that will allow them to do this. Having compassion for yourself and others when a major change is happening can be healthy, and if these changes bring a great deal of distress, professionals can step in to aid in the transition.
Blog written by Sarah Carter, Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #6982, supervised by Lisa Lewis, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #112889.