Grief and loss – Simply put

Grief comes in all shapes and sizes. Actually grief is just grief, how we deal with it is the real question.

Grief is a response to loss. Simply put, it is adjusting emotional ties to someone or something that is no longer a part of your life, or is no longer in your life the same way. In effect, grief is the process of adjusting to change.

Loss is something that creates a change. For example, a change in your job – such as being fired, quitting your job, missing a promotion, getting a promotion and so on. Each affects your life, creating change. Each change opens new possibilities, as well as closing possibilities. Adjusting to the loss of possibilities- that is adjusting the emotions tied to those losses – is grief.

Loss and grief can be very subtle forces in our life. I recall the time I lost a magnet that I liked when I was a child. On average, it does not affect me unduly, but on occasion, I wonder what has become of my magnet and I grieve for it. I have also lost many other magnets in my life, but these haven’t affected me as I did not form an emotional connection with them.

Emotion is the key behind grief and loss. If you don’t form an emotional connection to the thing or person that changes, then the change does not affect you directly, or indirectly. As such, the change does not trigger a loss. The stronger the emotional tie, the greater the effect to your life and the more you may feel loss.

While all change means loss of some kind, this does not require a focus on that loss. If you focus only on the gains and opportunities that the change can give you, then you do not feel grief. If you only focus on the loss of opportunities, the broken emotions and missed opportunities, then you gain no joy from the change and risk being lost in a cycle of grief.

It is rare that a change evokes only one extreme of emotional consideration. Generally change evokes a mix of perspectives, which can lead to an internal contradiction in how you feel about the change. I can be happy that my grandmother is no longer in pain, but sad that she is no longer part of my life. If I am okay with this mixture of emotions, all well and good. However if I feel that I should not feel happy, because I should be “grieving” and this makes me a “bad person”, then I complicate my adjustment to the change in my life.

In my next blog on grief, I will discuss the most commonly recognised text about grief – the Kübler-Ross five phases of expected loss model.

Loss leads to grief

Loss leads to grief, grief leads to the … sorry, wrong blog.

This is by no means a compete guide to loss and grief.

Ok, loss is something that everyone experiences. Whenever something that we feel a connection to is gone, we experience a loss. Loss can be as simple as misplacing your car keys, to being consuming like the death of a loved one, ambiguous like the loss of a bet where you were counting on that win, or complicated like the death of a sick relative.

The common link is that something has gone that you had an emotional tie to. Without that emotional tie, you do not feel loss. This emotional tie can be quite complex. It can be a sense of belonging, love, hope and so on. The breaking of this tie can create follow on emotions, such as anger, shame/guilt or grief.

Anger is the emotion we often feel when we feel powerless or hopeless. It regains our sense of power and ability to create change around us. When we don’t know how we feel, and we feel lost, we humans feel anger and we can become aggressive towards ourselves and others. That aggression often has damaging aspects of social, psychological or physical aspect. Aggression is not the only solution to anger. There are other ways of expressing your feelings of anger and better ways to regain your power.

Guilt is the emotion we feel when we think we should have acted differently and we feel responsible for the outcome. Often this subjective feeling of responsibility is inflated compared to objective reality. It is that skerric of possible truth that lays us down. We exaggerate any possible truth in our action that can mean we are responsible for the loss we have experienced. To minimise this, take a fresh look at the loss and the actions you feel lead to the loss. Did your actions alone lead to this loss? Or were others involved? Are you sharing the responsibility, or are you taking a god like credit?

Shame is the emotion we feel when we think that others consider we have done the wrong thing. In this instance, we can feel shame if we think others are judging us responsible for the loss we are experiencing. So long as we place an exaggerated emphasis on other people’s possible or actual opinions of us, we are going to feel trapped by shame. To combat this, realise that people are entitled to their opinion, whether true or false. It doesn’t matter what people think about you in this instance – this is a time for you to be more concerned with how you are feeling, not with how other people are feeling.

Guilt and shame can blind us to feeling the emotions we need to feel to deal with the loss. This emotion is grief. Grief comes in several flavours. The most well known is the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the “five stages of grief”, also there is the flavour of simple grief and the bitterest flavour is complex grief.

I will spend a blog post on each of these.