October 5, 2016

Losing well. Grief in everyday life. How learning to grieve can free you up emotionally and help you move forward

Grieving can help you move forward in life in general. You’ve probably heard of Elizabeth Kuebler Ross and the stages of grieving. We sometimes think about death and funerals when we think about grief but there’s much more to the idea of grief than that.

We experience little and mid-size losses almost every week. Maybe that check didn’t come on time in the mail. Maybe your spouse got sick before your date night. Maybe you didn’t get the raise you thought you deserved.

Sometimes losses are bigger. That relationship with a distant parent that never quite seems to click. That career you wanted but couldn’t afford. That romantic relationship that you’ve always wanted but never got.

Maybe it’s the approval of dad or mom that you can never really get. Maybe it’s the acceptance of older brothers or sisters. Maybe it’s the recognition and approval from your boss. Perhaps it’s your health. Maybe you moved out of your favorite neighborhood after living there for twenty years. Perhaps your spouse did not live up to your ideal.

How do we grieve these things? They’re not as big as a death in the family. But they can sure help us stay stuck in time. Sometimes people will tell you “just get over it.” The problem is that they are not seeing or hearing how you feel about the loss now. Still it’s important to be in the process of working through the grief. If you wallow in the pain and loss, they will keep you from moving on with your life. If you deny the loss, it will keep you stuck unconsciously and come back and bite you later. So it’s important to keep a balance.

A friend of mine wrote a poem about a classmate she lost during high school. This was pretty cathartic for her. Allowing yourself to feel the feelings will really help with recovery from loss. You can stay in denial for a while, but it is important to recognize at least some of the loss. This will help you sort out what you can keep and what you can regain.

Here are some other helpful hints that can help with grieving and then moving forward.

Working Though Grief

1) Talk about it. It is important to talk about your loss as much as possible to as many people you can trust. Grief is sometimes best dealt with the same way you treat a chest cold: “cough it up”. That is to say talking about it is the “expectorant” that brings it out and helps start the healing process. Finding others that have the skill for listening is also very important.


2) Memorialize. Finding or making memorabilia that brings the loss to mind is also very important. Cards, letters, objects, ticket stubs, toys, or anything that represents the person or thing that was lost can be collected and put in a box, place, photo album etc. and brought out to look at and share with others.


3) Journaling/Letters. Writing a journal about your feelings or perceptions of the loss is good as well as writing a letter to the one lost as if they’d moved to a faraway land. Tell them of your joys, hopes, hurts, dreams, losses and so on.


4) Gift. Getting a gift for the griever (even if that’s you). This stems from the old Japanese tradition of getting a small gift for the person grieving to mark the occasion and provide a reminder of the loss. While this can bring up pain, after a while the bitterness will turn bittersweet and then mostly sweet if you continue to work towards reconciling the loss. The gift should be small such that the person can pull it out and let it remind them of the loss as they work through the process.


To start the process of working on loss, read and meditate on Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, start with a small attainable goal like journaling. Then find a safe person to talk to about the loss. You’ll find that, after a while, you are much less stuck.



Here are  two conceptual maps that deal with grief, one simple and the other complex. Do remember that you can move up and down the stages.

-Grief Stages – DABDA