The power of grief
“Grief is not the problem. Grief is the solution.”
- Chris Paul -
Farewells and losses are among the most painful experiences in life, and grief, the natural and emotional reaction to a loss that helps us to process it, is a part of this.
A loss doesn’t necessarily have to be a death, as many of us may think at first. No, we always feel grief when we lose something close to our hearts. Consequently, a separation, an illness or losing your job can trigger grief.
When was the last time you were really sad? Do you still know what you were grieving for? How did the grief feel?
Grieving is personal
Everyone grieves in their own way and for differing lengths of time. Grief is a very personal experience that encompasses a broad spectrum of feelings and reactions. Grief can take the form of low spirits, emotional numbness, psychological withdrawal or a loss of zest for life. Feelings such as anger, guilt, fear, longing and loneliness are also very common. On the physical level, insomnia, loss of appetite, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath can make themselves felt.
Grief doesn’t follow a schedule
Although everyone grieves in their own way, there are certain tasks that grieving people have to face again and again after a loss.
The English grief researcher William Worden has described four “tasks of mourning” to this end:
- To accept the reality of the loss
- To process the pain of grief
- To adjust to a world without the deceased
- To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life
Grief is an ongoing process in which the different tasks can repeatedly come to the fore, singly or together.
There are people affected who try to suppress the pain. This may work for a certain length of time and also provide short-term relief, but in the long term the grief will still need to be worked through.
“Grief can neither be forgotten nor healed over time. It always waits to be worked through.”
- Jorgos Canacakis -
The experience of your own grief will change with time. If we let it, grief will slowly wander from the focal point of our lives to the edge of consciousness.
The duration of grief
Who hasn’t heard the well-meant phrase “it will get better with time”? Did you hear it when you were sad because your relationship was on the rocks, or you had lost someone you loved? Although these words are usually of little comfort in the moment they are spoken, there is something to them. Studies on the duration of the grieving process have shown that grief lasts a long time – as a rule, a lot longer than the traditional year of mourning. What is astonishing about the researchers’ findings, however, is that only in the second year after the loss does how well the grieving person is dealing with the loss become clear. Only then does it become evident that the coping process is running normally, or that the affected person requires psychological support for their grieving. In particular when someone very close has died, the pain never entirely disappears even with a normal grieving process, but it does gradually become ever more bearable.
During the grieving process, you should never put pressure on yourself or other people, but take the time you need for processing and letting go.
Tips for grieving:
- Give yourself time to realise your loss
- Structure your new daily routine (eat regularly, drink, childcare etc.)
- Make space for grief and your feelings
- Find opportunities for processing the grief (talk or write about your grief, have some grief counselling if necessary)
- Consolidate your own resources
How you can support someone who is grieving:
When grieving, people often do not have the strength to ask others for help. That’s why it is helpful if you go them and offer to do something specific:
- Look after the children
- Invitations to meals, walks etc.
- Cook food for the grieving person
- Do their laundry
- Do their shopping
- Help with administrative procedures (official matters, financial affairs)
- Offer help again and again and staying in contact, even after a long time
- Mark particular days in the year together (birthday, anniversary of death etc.)
Try to avoid giving advice. It’s better to listen and even to say that you don’t know what to say right now. A silent presence is often more helpful than words.
If you need help in your grieving process, there are various services available in Zug Canton. We have listed a few of them for you here:
- Trauerbegleitung Zug, for counselling to help you cope with the experiences of loss you expected or suffered. This offers grieving people the opportunity to make room for their grief in a safe space, to process it and to adapt step by step to the new situation. Appointments for individuals and families are available.
- Zuger Trauer-Café, the first Friday of the month, 16:00 to 18:00 in Alterszentrum Neustadt in Zug.
- The Deaconry of the Catholic Church in Zug Canton
- Pastoral care – the Reformed Church in Zug Canton
This article was co-written with Ms Claudia Albrecht, Trauerbegleitung Zug. Many thanks once again to Ms Albrecht for her support.