The Many faces of Grief

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow.

Sorrow however, turns out to be not a state, but a process.

It needs not a map but a history there is something new to be chronicled every day.

Grief is like a long valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”

Grief. It often catches us off guard and in many cases we only really think about it when we experience it. We can grieve the loss of a loved one through death, we can grieve when we adapt to a loss or an extreme change that has been a meaningful part of our life. We can grieve the loss of employment, the loss of opportunity, the loss of a marriage through divorce, the loss of friends through moving or conflict, and the list goes on.

Grief is:

  1. A new normal: Life is never the same when you lose a loved one. Part of the grieving process involves working through what your life looks like now. When you lose a loved one your life is forever changed. For example, if you were married, you may find that being with your couple friends is no longer comfortable or welcoming. Everything in your life is different, your routines, your holidays, your grocery list, your family dinners – everything is different.
  2. Invasive: Everything in your life has changed and thus everything in your life is affected. Often people struggle with issues related to sleep, appetite, mood, irritability, energy, memory loss and forgetfulness. Grief has been described as the unexpected house guest that has moved in and taken over
  3. A series of multiple losses: In many instances we grieve not only the person who is no longer with us, but we also grieve the role in which they played in our life. For example, if they did the shopping, balanced the cheque book, were our golf partner, we will need to grieve those losses. Experts call this “secondary losses.”
  4. Time consuming: It takes time to grieve. Time alone does not heal. It takes intentionality to process the relationship, to grieve and to let go. Grief has been referred to as “grief work.”
  5. Unpredictable: Grief has often been described as a wave, often coming when you least expect it. Triggers can spark the waves. Triggers can be hearing a song, seeing something that reminds you of your loved one, etc.
  6. Complex: Everyone grieves differently and there is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to grief. It is therefore important to respect that others will grieve differently.
  7. A mixture of emotions: Sometimes people think that grief is only sadness or crying. There can be many different feelings felt, and expressed, when grieving the loss of a loved one. The picture below is a reminder of the complexity of grief and grieving.
  8. A process: Grief is not linear and can come at times when you least expect it. This means you may have good mornings and bad afternoons or bad mornings and good afternoons.

Edelman, Hope. Motherless Daughters. Cambridge, MA, Da Capo, 2006.

Edelman, Hope. Motherless Mothers. Harper, New York, 2006.

Kubler Ross, Elizabeth. On Death and Dying. New York, Touchstone, 1969.

Kubler, Ross, Elizabeth. On Grief and Grieving. New York, Scribner, 2005.

Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed. London, Faber and Faber, 1966.

Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. London, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.

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