As I write this, my last article for A Beautiful Life Magazine, I find myself experiencing mixed emotions. I have truly enjoyed this collaboration with Ronnie and Krista. These articles have been my way of giving back to a caring group of contributors and readers. My intent has been fulfilled: To provide inspiration, guidance, and most importantly education, regarding grief; what is it, how it affects us, and the benefits of looking it straight in the eye. This article is meant as a recap of my thoughts on grief – hoping to either revisit this subject for my faithful readers or reach those who may not be familiar with this subject nor how it may be affecting them.
Since grief is the most “off limit” topic of conversation in the Western world, there is much misinformation surrounding what it is and how to address it. And yet, with accurate information and tools, we can mend our broken hearts, stop the rumination, move forward past the regret, loss, and disappointment, and turn towards our future with hope.
Once we have a clear understanding of the topic of grief, we can find the courage to ask for help, the strength to face our past, and the stamina to push through sometimes decades of emotional pain. Then, and only then, are we able to find ourselves standing solidly, and untethered, in the present.
What is Grief?
We have been taught grief pertains to the death of a loved one or perhaps the breakup of a romantic relationship. While both are true, there are over 40 additional reasons why someone might grieve. In fact, grief is caused by:
the normal and natural reaction to an emotional loss of ANY kind.
the conflicting emotions which are brought about by a change in something familiar.
the things we wished had been better, different, or more.
our unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations.
the unsaid communications, the things we said which we thought weren’t heard, the things we wished we had said but didn’t, or the things we need to say again with someone listening.
Why do we Stay Stuck?
When we find ourselves at a loss, we typically reach for techniques which were taught to us by those whom we admire and respect. In most cases, these people were also taught incorrect information about what grief is and how to process it. This advice may include, but is certainly not limited to:
bury our emotions, especially those others don’t want to hear about or be subjected to.
isolate ourselves away from those who would like to support us the most.
stay strong, which denies both ourselves and others from honestly expressing their emotions.
stay busy and distract ourselves from our emotional pain.
replace the loss, hoping somehow this will take away our emotional stress.
wait for time to mend our broken heart
The biggest myth of all is that there are STAGES to grief. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist who pioneered the Five Stages of Grief, cautioned these are the stages a dying person will typically experience as they come to terms with their diagnosis. These were never meant to support a griever to process their emotions.
After so many, mistakenly, embrace the Kubler-Ross model, is it any wonder why grievers are unable to move forward from their pain? There is absolutely NO universal reaction to loss. Every griever will experience loss in a different way. Grief is individual. It will be dictated by the relationship the griever had to the person, the situation or whatever triggered their pain.
How Does Grief Affect us?
Left unresolved, grief can manifest in the physical form. As our body desperately tries to get our attention and nudges us towards healing, unresolved grief can cause illness or even dis-ease. A few common physical reactions are:
reduced concentration and focus.
a sense of numbness (physical or emotional or both); traditionally mislabeled as denial.
disrupted sleeping patterns.
changed eating habits.
roller coaster of emotional energy.
massive loss of energy.
tendency towards isolation.
Does Resolving our Grief Change our Past?
Resolving the incomplete emotions of our past will NOT change the events which lead up to our feeling this way. However, it WILL change the way we perceive these events. Completing the emotional pain allows our body to stop seeking a solution; to stop trying to rewrite the story; to stop searching for the ending; and it diffuses the triggers surrounding the emotions experience.
It provides us the tools to forgive someone who may never say they are sorry. It allows us to stop wishing for a different yesterday. Finally, it sends a clear message we are not going to let that person, or event, hurt us anymore.
What are the Benefits?
The benefits are different for everyone. The consistent feedback from my clients: They feel physically lighter. The ache around their heart is gone. They have an inner peace they have not felt in a long time. The event, or person, has lost power over their life. They have found emotional freedom.
Where can I Find Support When I am Ready?
For over 40 years, The Grief Recovery Institute has been supporting individuals to move to the other side of their emotional pain. Grief Recovery Method Specialists are located across the world, trained in providing a safe environment to identify and process painful emotional experiences.
If over the past several years, you have been following my column and believe it is time for you to complete your past, I would be happy to offer any of my readers a free, discovery call. Please visit my website where you will find additional resources when it comes to mending your broken heart.
If you are not familiar with my column, please feel free to revisit past publications of A Beautiful Life Magazine or check out my website.
Thank you for taking the time to ponder how grief may be affecting you. My wish for you: find peace with the past, confidence in the moment, and hope for the future.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide.
She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at http://tadams.ca/