What is grief?
Simply put, grief is defined as the hurt felt when loss is experienced (Psychology Today). Grief is not exclusively experienced with the death of a loved one, it can also be experienced, for example, with the loss of a job or the loss of your home.
But, what is grief, really?
Sure, grief is as the definition above says, but it is more than that, in my opinion. Especially when the loss is so big, so unthinkable. Grief can make you feel like your heart is broken. It can cause unthinkable pain that courses through your body. It can take your breath away. You may feel numb and be unable to even taste your food; you may feel exhausted or be unable to sleep. Or, you may feel guilt for what was last said, or for what wasn’t said. You may feel angry with the world, or maybe with the person who died. You may feel like you are playing a part in a movie, like it is not really you living it. It may feel like a bad dream you can’t wake up from. Maybe, you feel shocked or in disbelief, like your brain can’t compute what is actually happening. Maybe your brain feels foggy, and you can’t focus. Maybe, you don’t experience any profound emotions; you may feel rather unaffected, unchanged by it. Or, the death has provided relief, you feel at peace.
All the maybes, they are meant to share some of the slew of ways in which grief is unique and can ebb and flow.
What’s the deal with stages of grief?
If you have heard of the stages of grief, you may have found this helpful. Perhaps it made you feel like the array of emotions you felt, or are feeling, are all normal and valid, and they are. Your feelings are valid. However, Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in my opinion, do not tell the full story of grief for many people. In fact, Kübler-Ross published these stages of grief based on the stages observed in terminally ill patients dying, not for those grieving after their loved one had past. Yes, many people do experience these feelings, perhaps some people do move through these stages after the loss of a loved one or another form of loss, but many individuals do not and because these stages are plastered on many corners of the Internet, it may serve as a misleading guide or set of expectations for individuals as to how their grief will go (Center for Loss). Please know, if you do not experience these stages, there is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing wrong with how you are grieving; grieving is unique (Center for Loss; Psychology Today). For grief experienced by the loss of a loved one, it may be helpful to keep in mind that just as our relationship with each person in our life differs, so will our grief experience when they are dying and have died. Regardless of what society says or makes us feel, there is no right way to grieve and there is no timeline for our behaviors or feelings (Center for Loss).
About the Author
Hi everyone! Currently, I am completing an honours of psychology degree through the Faculty of Arts. I am very excited to be a part of the Healthy U team because I am passionate about health and increasing accessibility to care, building resources in the community, and diminishing stigma.
I love psychology, so when I am not studying, I enjoy exercising, travelling, and spending time with loved ones.