The *How* of Grief….

Definition of emotion (n)

Bing Dictionary
  • e·mo·tion
  • [ i mṓsh’n ]
  1. heightened feeling: a strong feeling about somebody or something
  2. agitation caused by strong feelings: agitation or disturbance caused by strong feelings

As I’ve said before, grief effects us each differently based on who we are as people and how close our someone was to our daily life. Most of the time, if it was someone we cared about, we are each effected emotionally (and physically and spiritually and etc. – but those are for other posts).

Some common emotions in relation to grief:  shock/denial, sorrow, guilt, relief, anger,

Shock:  at the very beginning, when first learning of the death or even if you are present at the death, there can be a certain amount of numbness that occurs.  There’s a surreal feeling that surrounds you as you go through the rituals, family and friends surround you, and you try to attend to the immediate needs after the death.  This can take weeks, even months if the loss was sudden, to eventually process through the reality of what just happened.  One grief theorist – it may have been Dr. Therese Rando – once wrote that grief occurs bit by bit as we can bear it.  The shock is a natural defense mechanism to keep us from feeling the pain all at once.

Sorrow:  deep, intense, long-lasting sadness.  Need I say more?

Guilt:  the woulda/coulda/shoulda’s.  Whenever someone we love dies, we all – almost universally – feel some level of guilt.  We wonder if we could have done more, said more, said less, done things differently/better.  In many cases, the guilt is undeserved.  We are looking back at what we could have done differently through the filter of the death.  One widow once focused on a fight she and her husband had 10 years prior – a big one where she went to stay with a family member for three weeks.  The thing is, she would give anything to do things differently because she would give anything to have three more weeks with him.  Once someone you loved dies, you want them back.  Period.  And so you view your actions through that filter.

Relief:  this is a natural reaction in long care-giving situations or situations where someone struggled with mental health and/or addiction issues.  Often, guilt immediately follows that sense of relief.

Anger:  Maybe you’ve heard it said that anger is the flip side of depression (I’m not sure who first said that).  In some cases, particularly with men, it is easier to display anger than to cope with the deep sorrow.  Also, if your someone who died in some way contributed to their own death (suicide, continuing to drink after being warned about their liver damage, etc….) it is easy to be angry. This anger can be intense at times – as can the other emotions – and it’s important to learn how to express it safely.

Translation:  Clearly, this is just a very (very) short list of emotions you may experience.  Grief is intense, messy, chaotic and painful. These emotions are natural, but if you find yourself stuck on one or more, unable to process through it and move forward, then contact me. We can talk and figure out a way through it.

Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC

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