Grief is defined as “deep sorrow, especially caused by the death of someone.” Several years ago as I was about to return to work after 3 months off with my then 10 months old, I was feeling deep sorrow – not over the loss of someone but over a special period of time. I knew I wanted to return to work; however, I was so sad that I was going to be moving on from such a special time. I was struggling with the mix of emotions. Logically, I knew what I wanted to do; however, emotionally I felt sad even yet. This struggle of emotions led to two new emotions: guilt and anxiety. I’m guessing you are familiar with this juxtaposition. We all are. Grief doesn’t have to be over the death of just a person, it can be over whatever has been lost. It took a wise friend to help me deal with this grief, solely by gently labeling and naming my emotion of sadness as not just sadness but as ‘grief.’ That, my friends, made all the difference.
Years later, and hopefully a little wiser, I realize that identifying my emotions and labeling them appropriately is what helps me deal with them. I am not a psychologist so this is not professional advice, just little me seeing the evolution of how I’ve come to thrive (for the most part) in the long term of emotional changes. I see this with my children when they are upset. I try really hard to work with them to vocalize what emotions they are truly feeling, what reaction their body is having to it and then how would be best to deal with it. We have the Color Monster book at home and while helpful for children, as adults, we also know that basic emotions have many shades, not just one color. Grief is not just sadness, there is a difference even if its hard to pinpoint in a simple definition. That’s why there are stages, right?
What I know right now, is that emotions are all over the place for every one of us. There is so much change, so much that is unknown, so much loss and so much confusion and I know for me personally, I am once again grieving. I’m grieving over the many changes that have occurred, the loss of sense of security and normalcy, the loss of time with friends and family and myriad of other things. I also know that when I’m going through an emotional time that just like all those years ago, guilt and anxiety tend to creep in. Those two emotions tend to push in when I don’t allow myself to properly grieve.
I think we all have a tendency to want to express our emotion of grief; however, at the same exact time we feel we need to state in the same breath how lucky we are to have our health, our home, our careers, etc still. We know others are suffering more than we are, and so we feel the need to grieve but feel guilty doing it because maybe our pain is less than others.
I think it is completely logical and necessary to acknowledge our gratefulness at having the blessings and good fortune we have. I think this is actually a great antidote to falling into despair – another easily found emotion when grief is near. However, I do not think that feeling guilty about grieving what we perceive to be a lesser sorrow is helpful. I believe it hinders our ability to work through the grieving we all need to do.
It is okay to feel deep sadness for what you have lost these last few weeks knowing full well that you still have an amazing life. Comparison does not negate nor should it negate your sadness. You have still lost something – time with loved ones, a vacation away, a graduation ceremony, a dance recital, leaving your house for no reason at all – and it is ok and I think necessary to acknowledge it and feel the sadness, otherwise it will just sit there in the back of your mind without closure.
This continual realization of grief has allowed me throughout the years to deal with it better. It has allowed me to accept, acknowledge and treat it as it deserves: with some time and proper healing.
One of my favorite verses that makes me think about dealing with grief is from Job, who literally lost everything in his life that mattered. It hits me in the gut every time I read it because grief is so raw and individual, it is changing, it evolves and many times all that can be done is to just acknowledge the suffering and sit with it or sit with someone who is going through it. Job 2:13 says, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Be gentle with yourselves, friends, you are doing the best you can!