Grief Is Not An Experience
Grief is a journey, one that allows us to expand beyond the confines of life and death. I encourage intentional reflection in grief, whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of health following a critical diagnosis, the loss of a past sense of self, or the lost vision of a nurturing world.
Grief does not have specific boundaries. Instead, it involves wading through complex emotions within ourselves and in our communities. It is helpful to consider grief as a fluid journey rather than a rigid experience.
Grief Can Be a Path to Healing
I believe that grief can be all-encompassing, but it can also be a path to healing. We can intentionally create space — whether physical or emotional — to respect grief. In some cultures, grief is highly respected beyond the Western traditions of wakes and funerals. In past moments of grief, I have carved out time to sit with those immense feelings and practice culturally aware rituals.
Author Francis Weller wrote a profound book titled The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. In it, he states that “grief takes us into a terrain where we must develop other senses, other ways of knowing. We must learn to see in the dark”.
Grief must be handled gently, especially when dealing with an unexpected loss. A sudden loss shatters life as we know it. Emotions and feelings seem to penetrate our very being. Our nervous system is put into overdrive and our ability to cope is tested beyond comparison.
Grief follows an unpredictable, non-linear path. Respecting the grieving process and treating ourselves gently as we work through complex feelings is important.
Normal grief vs. prolonged grief
The terms ‘chronic grief’ or ‘prolonged grief’ describe a lengthened period of grief that impacts daily functioning. Strong, intense feelings persist beyond the immediate period of loss and may trigger:
- Complex feelings towards death and the afterlife
- Sensitive emotions and moods when discussing the deceased person(s)
- Numbness to emotions and moods
- Detachment from self.
Source: American Psychiatric Association
When grief becomes prolonged and impacts your daily living, I encourage you to speak with your GP or a mental health professional.
Personal and collective grief
We can grieve through both modern ceremonies and rituals passed down from generation to generation. We can create space for grief in many ways, whether through self-regulation, rituals, cultural ceremonies, personal and community care, or connecting with loved ones.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, actor Andrew Garfield reflected on the passing of his mother. He described his grief as unexpressed love: “I hope this grief stays with me because it's all the unexpressed love that I didn't get to tell her. And I told her every day.”
Hope and light amid grief
Mental health and well-being have come a long way in understanding the grief process. I believe that as we embrace ancestral teachings and new insights into grief, hope can be part of the grief journey.
Grief is a complex journey. It requires intentional care on both the individual and collective level. Through grief, we can process both our love for and the loss of a person, an identity, or a vision. When we embrace grief instead of turning away from it, we can develop a new narrative — one that brings us comfort and light amid the darkness.
If you would like more support navigating grief or loss, we’re here for you. Many of our therapists have extensive training in grief and trauma therapy. Reach out to us if you’d like help finding the right therapist, or book a 15-minute Meet & Greet yourself. You don’t have to work through your grief alone.