Have you ever been given the impression there is
only one right way to grieve?
You might have been told as a child that you should not cry for Grandma cos she wouldn’t want to see you crying. You might have been told that these things happen for a reason, as if that should guide your grief and how you express it. Perhaps someone has told you to ‘let it all out’ when you are already completely exhausted from doing just that.
There is one right way to grieve. It’s your way. It’s how you express your feelings of shock and your desire to deny that someone you love is no longer around. It’s whether you wish it had been you and not them, even if it means them having to live without you.
It’s how angry you get at them for leaving, at yourself for still being alive, or that anyone in your line of site becomes the recipient of your grief-fuelled anger. It’s the melancholic malaise that overwhelms you and has you encompassed in your doona or hiding out in the shed. It is the unbearable black hole of massive and cloying grief. It’s that slow dawning realisation, that can disappear for days or months at a time, that glimmers with acceptance. An acceptance that might allow you to find a new way of being in your world that has forever changed.
The way you grieve is as individual as you are. There is only your way to grieve. The question I invite you to consider when you find yourself enmeshed in grief is “how well is your expression of grief working for you?” For many of you working through the various stages of grief as identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross will be a roundabout, higgledy-piggledy journey.
According to Kubler-Ross it begins with shock that coincides with denial. Shock can sound like an uncomprehending “what?!?!” or look like catatonic shock where one is immobilized in a type of physical coma. Denial in its simplest form is an expression: “I don’t believe you!” In a more complex and insidious form denial can be continuing to live your life as if your loved one is still with you every day. Following denial is anger. Anger can be directed in many different ways and at many different people, entities or objects. Bargaining is listed next. This can sound like anything from “I’ll be good if you just bring them back” to “I will give over my life to spiritual isolation and devotion if only you bring them back.” Depending on whether the loss can be seen as an impending one different levels of bargaining can occur.
Depression, not to be confused with clinical depression, is next in Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief . This is a depressed state or mood that can be hard to shake and yet the sadness that accompanies it is an important part of the grieving process. The challenge with this grief induced depression is that if it hands around too long it can evolve into clinical depression. Once all of these stages have been navigated, and they will be no means occur in neatly listed fashion, you may find yourself in acceptance.
I asked the question earlier whether “your way of grieving was working for you.” The question, “how long is a piece of string?” is a relevant one here. How long is long enough for grieving? It’s as long as it is. Remember to be aware of whether your grief is serving you well or not. If it’s not perhaps it is time to seek some support from someone who can help you more effectively manage your grief.
To paraphrase, in my own clumsy way, from one of my favourite series of books, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:
You don’t ever get over grief.
But after a while you’ll look around and things will be different.
And then, just maybe, you’ll find a use for yourself in
this thing they call life.
Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.