When we think about grief and grieving, we often think of the death of someone close to us. But that is not the only kind of grief that we experience. As a matter of fact we can go through grief when we experience any kind of loss – and the more significant the loss, the deeper the grief.
Some of the losses are tangible, as in the death of a person or pet or the loss of a job or relationship. But other losses are less tangible, like the loss of security, or our youth, or our mental sharpness. All of these losses matter, and if not dealt with, they can build up in us and take their toll.
Sometimes we think we shouldn’t feel these losses as deeply as we do, or feel them at all. But this is not a helpful attitude. Neither minimizing nor denying their existence will offer release. Only in admitting the pain and moving through it will you be able to be free of the hold it may have over your life.
Grief must be shared. It cannot be released in isolation. You must seek a safe, compassionate person or group of persons who are willing to walk with you through the pain. Walking with a person means doing more listening and less talking. It takes maturity to do that well, but what a gift it is. James 1:19 says to be quick to listen and slow to speak (and slow to anger). How appropriate that is when applied to grief.
The traditional steps of grief are: Denial(of the loss), Anger(at the loss), Bargaining(to restore the loss), Depression(at the weight of the loss) and Acceptance(of the loss) – mostly in that order and mostly applicable to all forms of loss. Hence, the acronym DABDA.
I have found that many people will often cycle between anger and depression. The cycle goes something like this: the inability to reverse the loss leads to anger which leads to a feeling of powerlessness that results in depression. Then a person may become angry at the depression until the powerlessness over the loss once again overtakes them and returns them to a state of depression.
If we grieve in a healthy way, we eventually accept the loss and move on. If we do not, we may find ourselves stuck. At this point it might be wise to seek additional help.
All of us experience losses of different magnitudes. If we haven’t yet experienced a significant loss, rest assured it will happen if we live long enough. The goal is to be prepared to accept and give comfort as needed, and to develop resiliency by grieving well.