“Why aren’t I coping!”
“What is wrong with me!”
Have you ever found yourself making these statements? Have you ever wondered why your life seems so hard, while those around you seem to be breezing through each day?
Change of job; unexpected or forced changes within a job; unexpected change of career; moving geographical location; loss of a loved one through death or separation; loss of dreams due to personal (or perhaps a partner or child’s) injury, illness or disability; infertility; miscarriage; acquired disability; bankruptcy; children moving out of home; loss of independence; death of a pet; the natural aging process; sudden changes due to trauma (ie natural disasters, accidents, tragedies etc.)…the list could go on!
Have one or more of these events been a part of your reality?
All of these experiences carry with them one common theme…’LOSS’! With each event of loss comes an experience of ‘grief’, taking individuals on a journey that is not always well understood. One that is not contained within a linear process. A complicated, often unpredictable network of paths which can be difficult to navigate, a labyrinth, is an apt summary of the grief experience for many individuals.
Grief is not confined to an experience of death of a loved one, or separation as some might instinctively suppose, or even as many dictionaries would define it.
Grief is no respecter of gender, age, culture, socio-economic, religious or social status. No one is immune to the ‘grief experience’. It touches us all…at one time or another…to one degree or another! The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be. How we choose to navigate such an experience has many influencing factors (which I will address at a later date).
As stated by ‘Beyond Blue’:
“Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life; your emotions, thoughts and behaviour, beliefs, physical health, your sense of self and identity, and your relationships with others. Grief can leave you feeling sad, angry, anxious, shocked, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, isolated, irritable or numb.”
As I have journeyed through almost four and half decades of life, I’ve had opportunity to meet with a number of significant grief experiences, each one carrying little resemblance to the ones gone before. The combined effects of each have had a profound impact on me as an individual – a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a friend, a colleague, a counsellor, a teacher.
My personal journey through this labyrinth has taught me and shaped me in such a way that I could mourn the loss of someone or something significant in my world, and in turn become stronger, wiser and more empathetic. It has taught me that I have the ability to continue living life with a very real sense of purpose, even in the face of terrible pain and uncertainty. And with each experience I have grown (and continue to grow) in my understanding of this uneasy, uncomfortable, unpredictable and yet increasingly familiar companion.
“Grief has no set pattern. Everyone experiences grief differently. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. Through the process of grief, however, you begin to create new experiences and habits that work around your loss.” [i]
Grief is something to be journeyed through, not something to ‘get over’. It is not something to be dismissed or ignored as unimportant. It is not something to be made fun of. It IS a natural human response to ‘loss’…one that cannot be neatly mapped out or navigated with clear coordinates.
This complex journey is rarely predictable and has no particular time frame. One necessity for every grieving individual is to know there is someone who genuinely cares, who has the ability to empathise and offer practical assistance on occasions where it may be required. Reach out. Search out such a person. Be that person.
Every individual’s receptiveness to such care and concern will most certainly differ. Proceed with sensitivity.
Consider this…You may just be a beacon of hope to someone in their labyrinth of grief.
[i] Beyond Blue, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/grief-and-loss, 2016