The Grief No One Wants to Talk About

Written by on September 23, 2020 in Emotional Mastery

If I said let’s talk about grief, most people would naturally assume I mean death and quickly beat a path in the opposite direction.

But grief is about loss, and it comes in many forms.

There’s the loss of a marriage or friendship, loss of a career, loss of health or physical ability, loss of hope or long-held dreams, and the loss of innocence that comes from abuse, betrayal, or neglect, just to name a few.

The pain we feel as a result of these experiences is real, and it needs to be accepted and worked through if we are to heal.

Yet most people avoid expressing these other types of grief.

While there are many reasons for this reluctance, more often than we realize it is our response to society’s habit of ranking the severity of our losses.

“Too bad you lost your home.”

That would be the first home of your own, the one you worked two jobs and saved a decade to buy; the one where you raised your children and contained a lifetime of memories and photos of loved ones long gone.

“But, hey, it could be worse. You can always rebuild!” 

And so, rather than accept the sorrow you feel as valid and a necessary part of healing, you tell yourself:

  • I should have seen the divorce coming.
  • Plenty of women never become mothers.
  • We can find a way to rebuild, others aren’t so lucky.
  • It was a foolish dream anyway, it’s time to move on.
  • I’m better off without the promotion and extra pressure.

Before you know it, you’ve effectively minimized your feelings and talked yourself into believing that you should stop overreacting and just get on with life.

Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion, a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.

~Mark Twain

Could What You’re Feeling Be Grief?

When someone experiences the loss of a loved one, there are cultural and social norms that embrace the mourning process as acceptable and necessary.

There are no such expectations or norms for how we process other types of loss. You may not even consciously connect the sorrow you’re feeling with grieving.

The truth is that grief is not always easy to recognize because it’s a complex emotion that includes elements of other (more recognizable) expressions such as anger, sadness, guilt, irritability, and anxiety.

Where these emotions can sometimes be difficult to define, there are common behavioral responses to grief that are a little easier to recognize.

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • Feelings of guilt or remorse.
  • Uncharacteristic irritability, frustration, and anger.
  • Experiencing anxiety, nervousness, or fearfulness.
  • Mood swings from the need to escape to loneliness.
  • Emotional numbness or ambivalence.
  • Lacking energy and motivation.
  • Wondering if you’re crazy for feeling this way!

These are normal responses to loss and the grieving process.

And right now, whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re suffering them on an unprecedented scale.

We’re On This Journey Together

Author, speaker, and death and grieving expert, David Kessler believes that we as a society are going through a collective level of grieving that has never been seen before.  

There are the effects of the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil, the west coast continues to burn as tropical storms Paulette, Beta, and Teddy churn their way toward land.

The events of 2020 have upended our lives in a hundred different ways.

More than ever it’s tempting to minimize our losses when we compare them to those we see in the news and in our communities. 

But life shouldn’t be a competition for who suffers the biggest tragedy, nor is it our place to judge that it is acceptable to grieve certain losses and not others.

We may each be following our own path on this strange and unpredictable journey, nevertheless, we are in it together.

The Takeaway

We normally associate grief with death, but ultimately, it’s about loss and comes in many different forms. 

The pain we experience for these other losses is real, yet there is a tendency to minimize or deny our feelings for fear of appearing selfish or uncaring about others who’ve suffered greater losses.

But you should never feel ashamed about how you feel or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things.

Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a long-held dream, or a lifestyle, the emotions and pain you feel are real and need to be honored if you are to heal.

The good news is that if we’re willing to open our hearts and recognize our shared humanity, there is more than enough love and compassion to go around. 

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach, and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies, and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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