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The Many Identities of Grief

There’s a common belief that grief can only be experienced through the death or loss of a close loved one. That grief has one only one look or one way to be experienced. In reality, grief has many forms. While grief does occur from the loss of a loved one, it also can occur due to the change of a job, a shift or loss of a friendship, moving to a new home, family leaving for college, etc. We become attached and grow to love these places, things, pets, friends, and coworkers. So when things change, it’s normal that we as humans feel the heaviness of loss or change. It’s okay to be excited for being somewhere new or moving on to a new relationship while simultaneously grieving the loss of that thing you loved, that thing that was a part of your daily life, that thing that made you happy. And sometimes grief isn’t just about what we lost, it can also be about what we didn’t get to experience. There aren’t just different things people grieve about. There are also many different ways one can grieve. There’s the common perspective that there are 5 stages of grief and they occur in a certain order (denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Well, while some of those emotions from the 5 stages of grief are part of the process- it isn’t just limited to those emotions and it doesn’t have any specific order. When we grieve, we experience a huge range of emotions and they can be all over the place. One moment someone may feel bleak and lost and the next one may experience happiness as they think of that thing or person that brought them so much joy and then suddenly shift to anger. The healing process isn’t linear and neither are our thoughts, emotions, or experiences. A gentle reminder to all that no one person’s experience is the same as the other and every person has a right to grieve however they are grieving. There is no right or wrong thing to feel and there is no right or wrong thing to grieve for. There is also no timeline for grief; Years later grief can affect the person as if they are back at the very first day, weeks later someone may feel at peace, days later someone may not have even processed what happened. In the world of therapy, I often see people tell themselves that this difficult emotional experience happened long enough ago that they should be over it. They express embarrassment and sometimes even guilt when they find themselves becoming emotional, telling themselves they “should be over it.” But in reality, there is no over it. This thing or person they are grieving was a part of them in some way and probably always will be. Our missing of what we lost doesn’t shrink, we just grow around it. No matter your grief (the amount of time, the reason, or emotions) or the grief of someone you are supporting, it is all valid


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