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What is grief?

Many perceive #grief revolving around death. While that may be true, grief can apply to more than loss of a loved one through passing. In fact, grief takes on many forms, which may include loss of a relationship whether romantic, friendly, or familial. Other forms of grief are a result of loss of employment or career changes, changes in personal identity or roles, moving geographically, or loss of connection with people socially. People even experience grief with loss of independence through aging, disability, or isolation. Individuals may have experienced loss of ambition, interests, virtue, spirituality, or religion. Furthermore, grief can revolve around loss of physical or mental abilities through injury, genetics, or health issues. These examples may not be mutually exclusive or limited to in reality. Grief experienced can extend to more than death. Despite the type of grief experienced, the pain is still real.

Contrary to many #beliefs, how we overcome grief varies and there is no one true path that works for every individual. What is it with grief that is so taboo, when everyone experiences it at least once in their lifetime? How does it manifest in your life? What do you do with it? What do you do for others that grieve? What do you do for yourself?

I recently experienced grief through a loss of a friendship. I did not notice the pain I felt was grief at first. I thought it was hurt from the exchange of words, but it lasted longer. I recounted memories both joy and sadness. I noticed I wore the pain on my face. I noticed my eyes swell up. I wondered why a tearful laugh would not do that. I wondered why dropping a weight on my foot would not do that, despite the tears rolling down my face. Naturally, I looked it up online.

Why do my eyes get puffy when I cry?

It's because emotional tears are more watery, they're less salty than basic tear secretions and the tissue in your eye. So, through the process of osmosis, the water moves into the saltier ocular tissues, which makes them swell up.

(Don Glass - Moment of Science, 2004)

SCIENCE! So while the mind may not yet understand you are in grief, surely the body does. Perhaps you are unsure with what is happening in your life right now. Perhaps you have been told to believe these feelings are not grief because no one died. Bereavement affects people differently and therefore you may not want to compare your personal experience to another’s.

Here is a start on how to deal with grief from unexpected loss and disappointment:

  1. Name the grief. What type of grief is it?

  2. Do not be ruled by the tyranny of the clock. People grieve differently, with different frequency, intensity, and duration. Do not compare yourself to others by how or how fast you recover.

  3. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. Use self-care practices and allow self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and show love to yourself.

  4. Befriend people who want the best for you. It’s ok to ask for help or receive help offered.

  5. Stop and smell the roses. Use mindfulness practices to help you focus on this moment. The future is not here yet. Where are you now? What are you feeling? How does your body feel? What is around the space you occupy? Take a DEEP BREATH IN SLOWLY and EXHALE SLOWLY. Can you breathe out the load and heaviness and inhale the freshness and fill that space for the moment?

Allow yourself time to reflect, grieve, and discover meaning as a result of loss.

Be well.

Catherine Trinh, MS, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Cynthia Horwitz, MS, LPC-S

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