This is a guest post by Shahjahani a personal friend and Hospice Nurse.
“Grief is a journey, not something you get over”
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
Grief can be experienced for many reasons, not just the loss of a loved one. Grief is not just related to the loss of a person’s physical presence. Grief is about loss, loss of a loved one, a divorce, a beloved pet or a career. Grief responses are as individual as the person experiencing them. There are physical, physiological, emotional and psychosocial reactions to grief. I would like to talk about ground rules for grieving, myths of grief and loss, the uniqueness of each person’s grief and symptoms of grief.
Ground Rules for Grieving
Living through the grief means to understand and KNOW that you are stronger than you think and that you have the ability to survive if you allow yourself the time to feel the emotions and grieve the loss. Remember the quote above? This is a journey. It is not a race. One must acknowledge their grief, honor it, recognize the healing nature and value of their grief and respect where they are in one’s own journey. How does one do this? Learn and know the difference between active and passive grieving, as well as acknowledging one’s own personal style of grieving.
- This means to be part of the grief journey. A person who is actively grieving allows themselves to feel what they are feeling, without running from or avoiding the feelings due to the pain. One does not need to be a masochist to allow the pain to wash through them. Active grieving involves learning how to cope with the new intensity of sadness, loneliness, anger, etc. The ultimate goal is to learn that you have the strength to cope with these new and very intense/overwhelming feelings.
- This means to try to avoid or shut out the feelings welling up in an attempt to try to “get over” the grief without feeling the pain.
Fluctuating between active and passive grieving is normal and okay. What is wanted is a balance with spending time actively grieving and the use of passive grieving as a short break from the grief. Active grieving may sound like this, “I will survive this loss. I will reach out for support from my family, friends and the community. I will honor and embrace my pain from this experience, and I will not be ashamed to express my feelings. I am stronger than I think.” Passive grieving may look like this: Shutting down of emotions, avoiding or denying the pain, staying too busy and avoiding grief (although being busy as a short break from grief is okay); showing heightened or exaggerated emotions, or showing no emotion at all. These principles remain the same no matter the type of relationship, no matter whether it is vanilla or a deeply interdependent D/s or M/s relationship. The one aspect that does change is the length or intensity of the journey for each individual.
Myths of Grieving
Myth #1: Grief and mourning are the same thing. Grief is the collection of internal thoughts and feelings we have after a loss. Think of grief as the container that holds all of your thoughts, feelings, and images of your experience when you are grieving. In other words, grief is the internal meaning you give to your personal experience of loss.
Mourning is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it on the outside. Another way to define mourning is “grief gone public” or what everyone else sees. Talking about the loss, crying, expressing your thoughts and feelings through art or music, and celebrating special anniversary dates that held meaning for the loved one that died are just a few examples of mourning.
Myth #2: Grief and mourning progress in predictable, orderly stages.
Dr. Kubler-Ross described grief in stages as follows: Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. These stages are accurate and valid, however, they are meant to be applied to the person that is dying or terminally ill and their personal loss of life where they experience these stages as they cope with and prepare for their own personal death. These stages do not go in order and they do not necessarily apply to someone who is grieving the death of a loved one in which the experience is somewhat different.
Emotions come and go, lasting long or short periods of time. They can overlap or be simultaneous. Everyone mourns in different ways and for different amounts of time. Grief is a unique and personal experience. Don’t force yourself through or deny your emotions. Don’t try to change your emotions. This is most important: Allow yourself to be where you are, when you are and for the amount of time you need.
Myth #3: You should move away from grief, not toward it.
A natural human response is to keep ourselves safe and move away from things that will hurt. Society does not help this natural response when well-intentioned family and friends pressure you to get “back to normal”. Because of the physical pain grief causes, this reinforces the natural urge to repress your emotions. Many people view grief as something to overcome/move on from, rather than something to be experienced, expressed and incorporated into your life. Masking or moving away from grief expression is stressful and can create anxiety, confusion, and potential depression.
Myth #4: Tears of grief are a sign of weakness.
Crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension and stress in your body. Crying communicates to others that you are in pain, either physical or emotional, which allows you to communicate a need to be comforted. Tears are a sign of mourning. Crying uses a lot of energy and is actually hard exhausting work. Tears are definitely not a sign of weakness.
Myth #5 When someone you love dies, you only grieve the physical loss of the person.
This is most assuredly not true. You experience a profound loss of self; this impacts your identity, your confidence, your health, and/or your personality. You may experience a loss of security; which may impact your goals, your dreams, your will/desire to live, your joy, your faith, and your personal definition of life. Allow yourself to acknowledge the many levels of loss that the death has brought to your life.
Myth #6 After the loss, the goal should be to “get over” your grief as soon as possible.
Be cautious of those around you that give you the impression that you have to “get over it”. They are setting you up to fail. You do not “get over” grief, you come to peace with the reality and you learn to cope with the feelings that come with a great loss. There will not be a time when you say that you are done loving, but there will be a time when the grief is reconciled and is no long all-encompassing and overwhelming.
Myth #7 Nobody can help with your grief.
Grieving is hard work, some of the hardest work ever to be done. It takes a team effort. Others cannot take away the pain, but sharing and connecting to safe people helps ease the burden of being/feeling alone and provides a source of strength that you can use to cope.
These are but a few misconceptions of grief. When you are surrounded with people who believed these myths, you may feel particularly alone and isolated. If you do not have people in your life that can support you emotionally or spiritually, seek out those that can, either through a counselor or with others going through a grief journey, such as a support group.
Grief is unique. Your relationship with the loved one was unique, so of course, your grief will be unique as well. Whatever the circumstances, you are the only one who understands your relationship with the one who has died and so, you are the only one who fully understands your grief. It is important that you consider the “why” questions. Asking these questions facilitates a deeper understanding and introspection of what is happening inside our minds and bodies during the grieving process. It is important to review the relationship, both positive and negative aspects, the memories, the feelings when in the company of the loved one, were they a friend, a confidant? How long was the relationship? It is also important to review the circumstances of the loss. Was it a sudden loss or a lengthier timeframe? Were you in a caregiver role? How close were you to the loved one? Evaluate you support system. This can be two people or twenty.
Symptoms of grief are complex, as complex as human emotion. Feelings are not Right or Wrong. They just ARE. You may feel like you are going crazy due to the intense feelings and reactions to certain memories and stimuli. This is normal. There are emotional responses, such as sadness, shock, anxiety, or numbness. Grief can physically hurt. Generalized pain, headaches, weight changes, shortness of breath and increased pulse are but a few of the physical changes that can happen. It may be difficult to concentrate, be forgetful, having vivid dreams of the loved one and searching for meaning in it all.
As you can see, grief is very complex. No matter the relationship or situation, if there is a loss, there will be grieving. The greater the loss, the more intrinsically tied emotionally, physically, financially a person is to someone or something (such as a beloved pet), the greater the grief, the longer the grief may last.
I leave with a quote from C.S. Lewis
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times, it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want others to be about me.”
My name is Shahjahani, and you can find me by the same name on Fetlife. I am a submissive living in a 24/7 relationship with my Master. I am new to the lifestyle, but not new to kink. I have always been an introspective person, with much of my life dedicated to meditation, looking within for strength and in the service of others, as service brings fulfillment and peace in my life. I am open to questions from anyone, and I love to teach (another passion of mine). If you would like to get to know me better, please check out my blog Blood and Fire at http://shahjahani.kinky-blogging.com, or you may message me on Fetlife.