Grief is probably something that most of us have had to experience at some point in our lives. The most common and well-know reason is the death of a loved one, but we grieve to some extent for other reasons as well. We grieve for any kind of loss, be it the end of a relationship, the loss of a friendship or even a change in situation.
Some of these events may only require a small amount of grieving; others may need a grieving process that lasts years. I grieved for the sale of my old car - a classic mini that I'd got myself far too emotionally attached to for my own good. I grieved for about an hour after the buyer took her away, and then I was able to move on with no regrets. However when I grieved for my aunt, who died when I was 19, the whole process lasted about 10 years.
There's no procedure for grieving and there's no formula to follow. No-one can tell you how long it will take, or what form it will take. It's not linear and it's not rational. However it is very necessary.
Grief is the process that takes you from the painful state you find yourself in at the point of loss, to acceptance of the situation and an ability to let go and move on. I think the most useful thing to know about grief is that it comes in cycles. You think you're coping really well and then something comes along to knock you sideways - again.
Often we fall straight into the grieving process. If our sorrow is strong and we are comfortable with our emotions, we will naturally start to go through the stages. However, often we block it and this is where we get stuck.
I've heard many people say they just can't cry. Sometimes we can't connect with our emotions as they are too painful so we block them away. Other times, there is a fear that if we break down, we'll never stop crying, so we prevent ourselves from even starting. Maybe we think we need to be strong for someone else - a child or a partner. This might be a necessary protection for the initial intensity of the emotion, but if we don't go back and address it, then we can't let go.
Letting go doesn't mean we are forgetting. Sometimes we don't want to grieve because we don't want to let the memory of a loved one go. But if we have such a highly charged emotional response to them that we can't even think about them, then are we really remembering them in a way they or we'd want.
Going back to my aunt, who was the first person I had to grieve for, I went through a lot of emotions. For years, I believed I could have done something to prevent it, which was hugely unlikely and probably quite arrogant about my influence as a teenager. For years I blamed those around her for not being able to help her. But that is also unfair. Eventually I came to accept that it was just a tragedy and a belief formed that she is probably happier now she's in the spirit world.
The thing that shows I've reached acceptance, is that I can remember the good times we had with happiness and joy. I can remember what she was like with love. I can remember my relationship with her without regrets.
The process was far from straight forwards. After the initial shock of losing her, my days ran pretty normally. Sometimes I'd think about things when my mind was quiet, but because I didn't see her day to day, my routines weren't affected. What I noticed was that every so often waves of emotion would come up and hit me and I'd find myself crying again. Over the 10 years after her death, these happened less frequently and less intensely. Each time they happened my thoughts and feelings processed a bit more and I began to make some sense of my loss.
If we don't grieve for whatever reason, we become stuck emotionally at the point the person died. We have to keep carrying the pain around with us and this can cause us to close up to prevent the emotions accidentally spilling out. Often people may "expect" us to have gotten over the loss by a certain point, so then we can feel it's even more necessary to hide the unresolved grief away. Grief can include many emotions, such as anger, regret, self-pity and others. If we don't complete the grief process, we won't have resolved all the individual emotions.
As you probably already realise from reading my other blog posts, if we have unresolved emotions, then we will likely be reacting to present events rather than making conscious choices. Imagine if you still had unresolved anger within you, you could well find it bursts out when you least expect it. If you are living with unresolved regret, you may find that you are living in the past a lot.
There are many ways to resolve these emotions, but the main one is to intend to grieve. Intention is a great starting point and often just allowing process to follow is enough. We may find we attract supportive people who we can talk to, or maybe we meet someone else who's gone through a similar experience. Even if there is no-one around who we feel understands us, a supportive hug can still help us along our journey. Nothing anyone says or does will make the pain disappear overnight, but it's important to keep the process moving forwards.
So, if you know there is a person or event you haven't grieved for, please consider going through this process to set yourself free and allow yourself to remember the positive memories without pain.