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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