Grief is the physical, emotional, somatic, cognitive and spiritual response to actual or threatened loss of a person, thing or place to which we are emotionally attached. We grieve because we are biologically willed to attach.” By John Bowlby, Father of Attachment Theory
A lot of the material (in books and on the Internet) deals with grief as associated with death. However, grief can result from any loss. “Every loss brings pain and disruption of life” (Wright, iv). “Loss refers to a breaking of a bond you’ve formed with a significant person, place, thing, or idea (including beliefs) in your life” (Harvey, 10). Simply put, loss changes the way things have been and we miss that. Very deeply at times.
Some traditional losses are as follows:
- Death Due to Suicide or Murder
- Death of a Family Member, Friend, Co-Worker or Pet
- Death of a Former Spouse
- Divorce (impacts more than just the people getting divorced)
- Doing Poorly at School or Work
- Employment Change through Being Laid off or Fired
- Empty Nest
- End of Addictions
- Financial Changes (positive or negative}
- Home/Possessions Lost Through Natural Disaster, Vandalism, Foreclosure
- Legal Problems
- Major Health Changes (including chronic illness)
- Miscarriage and Stillbirth
- Near Death Experience
- Harm Through Abuse, Rape, Accident (loss of safety and loss of control of one’s body)
- Starting School
- Status Change
- Trust (loss of) – with a parent and other relationships including God
- Unfaithful Spouse
The more bonds that are broken and the deeper the bonds are, the deeper the grief tends to be.“The amount of work your grief requires will depend on your life experiences, the type of loss, and whatever else you have on your plate at that time” (Schwiebert, 47).
Several other factors will also affect mourning.
- Your familial and cultural background will dictate what behaviors are expected, okayed and shunned. These behaviors may or may not move the bereaved forward to recovery.
- Additionally, the number of losses you’ve had, your age, and how much support you received in the past and present help determine the quality of grieving you’ll go through.
But having said this, grief recovery is a very individual journey. What devastates one person hardly fazes another. And that’s okay. What’s important is to . . . feel the feelings . . . talk about the loss . . . practice faith . . . and patiently wait for the wound in your heart to heal as and because you’ve taken steps to grieve well.
- Go through the above loss list. What losses can you identify with? Which ones have you/have you not fully grieved? Are you willing to learn how to grieve those still on the list?
- Look at your familial and cultural beliefs regarding grief and loss. Which beliefs are/aren’t helpful? Can you change one of the unhelpful beliefs/actions?
- Write down your support people – those who love you and like you. Those who listen without judgement and can keep your private stuff private. Have you talked to them about your griefs? Losses? Why or why not?
- How can you feel (instead of bottling up and ignoring the pain) the grief for one loss today? Journal, paint, read (see the below works cited), talk, or cry are some options. Sometimes it is helpful to get professional help.
- Look for a local grief support group.
- What have I left off this list?
Harvey, Greg. Grieving for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, 2007.
Schwiebert, Pat and Chuck DeKlyen.Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. Portland: Grief Watch, 2005.
Wright, H. Norman. Experiencing Grief. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2004.