When everyone is suffering and facing difficulty coping, it brings to light the most common opinion on what is grief. The misconceptions surrounding grief will be seen as suffocating to someone going through it.

Mental health is still a topic that is not spoken about. When someone is grieving, they are not encouraged to talk about it or think about it, this is because of a lack of awareness on the importance of emotional expression to recover from stressful events.

De-mystifying grief

Grief is the process of pain and mourning someone goes through when there is a loss of something that was considered very dear. The death of a loved one is not the only form of loss but it is the only form of loss that is encouraged to be felt. Other forms of grief and loss could be, a break-up of a relationship or friendship, loss of a pet, loss of a childhood home, divorce, and family break-ups.

It has been commonly observed that when someone is mourning over an incident that is expected to not have an effect, they are told a lot of things by people they love such as “Get over it”, “Why is it bothering you so much?”, “Why are you still thinking about them?”, “You knew them for less than a year”, “Maybe it is time you let them go”. Through no fault of their own, the mourner may feel guilty for feeling something completely natural.

In therapy, for grief, the social support that the client has is assessed to help them. While assessing this, the phrases commonly heard are revealed like light coming through cracks of a wall. Talking about what is bothering someone when they are grieving is what helps them process what happened. When these sentences are heard by the mourner, they automatically lose the healthy space to grieve. Following this, the process of grieving is delayed as it is seen as invalidating and puts the person in a spot where they feel it is a crime to grieve.

During the process of grief, it is not possible to put aside thoughts and move on immediately as the person has to create a new narrative of themselves. Everyone creates personal stories based on what is important to them and when an important part is lost, they are left clueless and may feel like they are asked to navigate a forest blindfolded. They now have to fill that missing part that has fallen out of their perfect puzzle. This takes time and can be done only when the person is allowed to mourn and feels heard.

During the process of grief, there is constant shifting between grieving and carrying on with life, and eventually, new stories can be created by integrating and accepting the loss. This is called the dual processing model of grief where the person is constantly oscillating between loss-oriented activities and recovery-oriented activities. Typically, during grief this may not be understood and the person or people around them may think they only involve in mourning but there are also recovery-oriented processes that should be brought to the awareness of the individual to help them understand the process of grief much better.

What can we do if we or our loved ones are mourning?
  1. Listen to our loved ones and support them through the process of grief and trauma.
  2. Do not provide opinions on feelings, beliefs and attitudes as that can be perceived as invalidating.
  3. If the reactions seem abnormal urge them to visit a mental health professional.
  4. Do not force recovery within a particular time as the time varies for different people.
  5. Consider talking to a professional as it is a safe space to talk and vent out whatever we feel.
  6. Recovering from grief and trauma involves creating new stories while acknowledging what happened in a self-paced manner.
  7. Understand that, there is not only grieving but there is also an effort to move on from the part of the person who is mourning.
  8. Encourage to talk about loss and memories with what was lost as reminiscing helps us accept what has happened. Talking about trauma as scary as it sounds helps our brains integrate and store it away so it does not seem like we are locked and frozen in the event.
  9. Helping the person understand that they are loved and not alone and if you are experiencing trauma and grief self-care is very important.
  10. Write goodbye letters to unburden feelings that are not able to be expressed at the moment.
  11. Journaling our feelings and letting ourselves feel emotions helps in the process of recovery.
  12. When feeling invalidated express to loved ones about their responses feel hurtful.

Resources

  • Geraldine M Humphrey – Counselling for Grief and Bereavement
  • EMDR- Francine Shapiro
  • William Worden- Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy
  • https://www.funeralguide.co.uk/help-resources/bereavement-support/the-grieving-process/the-dual-process-
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