What is grief, really?

Sorrow over great loss and great change is part of grief and it is normal.  It is a painful sadness over crushed hopes and dreams.  It is the feeling that your heart was ripped apart.  Intellectually, we may be relieved that suffering of our loved one is over but grief is not about a broken brain but about a broken heart.  

Grief touches all areas of our lives, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Some of us may be in screaming pain initially but then a numbness and daze kicks in that can last for weeks.  The daze does not mean a lack of emotion but actually it means there is an overload of emotion.  The daze is our bodies tripping the emotion breaker as a control mechanism to avoid overload so we can absorb the trauma at a more reasonable pace.  

Physically, our bodies may not work smoothly.  We have problems eating and sleeping and pains of all kinds.  Some people yawn and sigh while others cry till they run out of tears.  We are exhausted and preoccupied.  We can forget both our car keys and our conversations. 

Emotionally, it is a roller coaster, going in and out of feelings. We struggle with “if only” it had been different, better, or more.  Grief is also defined as conflicting feelings caused by the end or change in the familiar.  This helps us understand the anger that comes with grief.  We struggle with assigning blame: to the medical system, the environment, the weather, or to our loved one or ourselves – sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not so good reasons.  

After my 25 yr. old champion cyclist son was killed by a car while riding his bicycle, the driver was found guilty of a criminal act and the courts gave him a jail sentence.  But for a while, I also blamed myself for buying him his first bicycle as a little boy because then he might not have been out cycling.  Then I blamed him for stopping to eat his lunch on his ride that day because otherwise he would have already been home.  That’s the craziness of grief. 

Spiritually, we are looking for answers including about life after death.  We wonder about our faith, and typically we are shaken or strengthened.  Those who are shaken will often emerge stronger.  In addition, we ask, “ Why did this ever happen to us?”, trying and trying to find a missing key.   There usually are no simple answers but eventually many of us come to simple acceptance.   

Grief is a natural response to loss. Grief is a time where we evaluate our relationship and what we treasured from it.  We decide what is important to us about that person and about life in general.  In all the pain of grief, there is the hidden opportunity for reevaluating our own lives so that we can consciously decide how to live our own lives in the most beautiful and meaningful way. 

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