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Reminders about Grieving

stages of grief

Dealing with grief is a part of the human experience that no one really wants to acknowledge. Different cultures have different ways to cope with grief after loss. The jarring thing I’ve noticed with clients that are grieving is the tendency to minimize their pain and limit their grief in order to spare the feelings of people around them.  Grief is a topic that people are awkward or uncomfortable about. I think that this comes from a tendency to avoid voicing emotions that aren’t inherently happy. When we lose someone, it feels like we’re expected to spend a limited amount of time actually mourning that person and then we have to get over it. Life moves on and the world keeps spinning, so we feel like we have to try and keep up.  

stages of grief

During my time in school we were taught about the stages of grief. Each stage is mapped out based on what the normal grieving process looks like. Over time, this information has spread to online sources and infographics that are easily accessible to people. While knowing the stages of grief is helpful, it doesn’t mean that people fully understand how to navigate it. The stages are lined up in order without the reminder that grief isn’t linear, there isn’t a timeline for grieving, and the loss of someone you love isn’t something you “get over”.  

So, what do I mean when I say that grief isn’t linear or that there isn’t a timeline? Great questions. If you read through the stages of grief, the assumption is that every person experiences those stages in that order and then you’re done grieving. The reality of grief is much more complex than that. Each person experiences the stages of grief at different times, in a different order, and most people will jump from one stage to another at some point in time.

For example: There might be a time in your life where you’re in the acceptance stage of grief. You have acknowledged that the person you love is gone and you’re functioning with the loss on a day-to-day basis. The problem with the belief that acceptance means you’re done grieving for good is that when you realize it’s your loved ones birthday, your anniversary with them, or you realize they won’t be around to make their joke about the Thanksgiving turkey this year – it all comes flooding back to you. Your comfortable place in the acceptance stage has suddenly shifted to anger or depression. It can feel like you’ve failed because you’re still mourning.  

Here’s the reality of grief: You will always be in a state of mourning. Losing someone you love isn’t the same as scraping your knee and waiting for the skin to heal and scab over. If I had to compare it to something, I would compare it to the experience of breaking a bone. The healing time is longer, the pain is harder to manage, and that broken bone will most likely not heal the same way. 

someone with their head down on their knees

The pain of losing someone you love isn’t something that is easily forgotten. Grief is something that impacts you less over time, but it’s always going to be there. I read a quote one time from Jamie Anderson that I feel explains grief in a simple way: “Grief is just love with no place to go.” The love that you had for this person in your life doesn’t have anywhere to go and that causes pain for us. It’s a reminder that we loved someone so much that we don’t know what to do with ourselves now that we can’t express it the way we used to.  

If we don’t give ourselves the time and space to experience our grief, it becomes something that we’re avoiding at all costs. We attempt to put it in a box on a shelf in our brains and hope that it never tumbles down. What I’ve learned over time is that the box will always tumble down. 

I know that reading this blog post might have felt less hopeful than expected, but I hope that it validates some of the feelings that you might be carrying. If you are looking for a place to process your grief, reach out to a Mindsight therapist today.  

photo of the author

Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats.

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