“While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates it.” — Samuel Johnson
Grief can be defined as “the emotional human response to the loss of someone or something to which a bond has been formed.” The word grief is often used interchangeably with the term mourning. However, why do we grieve? What is the purpose of the grieving? The answer, simply put, is so we can be happy and feel complete again.
The loss of a “loved one” and the accompanying feelings of grief are powerful. Greif hurts us at our very core. The loss of a loved one is as painful and devastating as any physical injury. However, like all physical injuries loss sets off a natural process in the body of recovery and healing. It is very important that this process be experienced fully and that it is permitted to occur. For it is only through allowing ourselves to experience the natural grieving process that we can ensure that we will eventually get over the pain and be happy again.
The grieving and subsequent healing process has three distinct phases. These phases apply to all types of loss; however, the intensity and the duration of the phases will vary depending upon the type of loss. The first is the shock and denial phase. A person will experience a period of denial and disbelief. In the case of a lost loved one, we may refuse to acknowledge that the loss has occurred. We continue to expect the person to “walk through the door.” The idea that life continues, seemingly without missing a beat, is unfathomable to us after losing someone we love. This denying is normal and it will eventually pass and give way to the second phase of grief.
The next phase is the anger and depression phase. It is during this period that we look to assign blame. Sometimes we blame ourselves, sometimes it’s God, and sometimes it is the person whom we have lost. We feel angry, hurt, and sad and may even feel like we will never be happy again. This phase of grief is particularly crucial, for it is during this phase that the hurt and sadness must not be thwarted.
Some people will turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain. Others might revert to the denial phase. However, by not allowing ourselves to feel the pain and sadness of our loss we risk the possibility of never be able to feel in the manner that we once did. In time, we eventually get past the anger and the hurt and enter the final phase of loss.
The final phase of course is the stage of realization and acceptance. We realize that life does go on and that in time we can feel happy again. We understand that loss is a normal part of life and that it will occur repeatedly. We still miss the object of our loss but because we have allowed our self the time to feel the pain and to grieve, we can be move forward with the knowledge that we can experience happiness and love once again.
“Mourning is not forgetting… It is an undoing. Every tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the dust. The end is gain, of course. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be made strong. But the process is like all other human births, painful and long and dangerous.” ― Margery Allingham