Why Grief Isn’t Just About Bereavement
Updated: Jun 24
One of the biggest misconceptions of grief is that only those who have been bereaved by the loss of a loved one are allowed to feel it.
This is simply not true.
Grief is an emotional and physical reaction to losing something significant in your life.
Emotionally you may experience a wide range of emotions from anger and guilt to feeling overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow. These feelings can seemingly come out of nowhere. Surprising you with their suddenness and their strength. Like being hit be a truck you didn’t see coming.
Physically, grief can manifest itself in headaches, loss of appetite, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia, fatigue and exhaustion.
You find yourself struggling to make sense of what has happened. A large part of your life is no longer there, and it has left a huge hole that feels impossible to fill. Adjusting to the reality of your new life or set of circumstances feels overwhelming.
Here are a few of the many situations where you may find yourself experiencing grief.
Loss of a Pet
When you lose a much-loved family pet you are overwhelmed with sadness. This is perfectly natural. But I often hear people say, 'It’s silly to feel like this, it was only an animal'.
No! It is not silly. You have lost a huge part of your life.
Pets provide us with a never-ending supply of unconditional love and companionship. Their excited bark or contented purr is no longer there, and you know that you will never hear it again. Their passing has left a void and it feels like you will never be able to fill it.
This is grief.
We often feel that people wouldn’t understand why we are feeling like this, so we bury it inside and pretend that all is OK.
I hear of people hosting 'Divorce Parties' celebrating their freedom from a relationship.
However, more often than not, you may find yourself grieving rather than celebrating. Your whole life has been turned upside down. Your partner may still be alive, but they are lost to you, and you will never again know the comfort of their loving smile or their hug after a hard day at work. You’ve lost your confidante, your best friend.
Maybe you no longer have the comfort of knowing there is someone else helping you with the responsibility of day-to-day living. I remember feeling an overwhelming rage when putting the bins out because 'this was not how life was supposed to be!'.
You may blame yourself, wishing you had tried harder or behaved differently. Angry at the other person for leaving and not trying hard enough to make the relationship work. Your future seems bleak and lonely.
This is grief.
Friends often say, 'There are plenty more fish in the sea' or “You could do better anyway”.
These well-meaning comments encourage the belief that grieving is not allowed in these circumstances. So, you find yourself putting a mask over your emotions and suppressing your grief.
Loss of a Job
Grief can also surface when you have been made redundant or taken retirement.
Typically, we spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week at work. So, it is no wonder that you feel lost when it ends. In addition, for some people work is a symbol of their worth and an indicator of success. Therefore, finding yourself without a job can affect your self-worth. At the very least, work is a way for us to pay the bills and put food on the table.
Losing a job can leave you worried about your future and your financial wellbeing. Finding another role feels terrifying and your future hopeless. You probably feel angry at the unfairness of your situation and feel that you have lost your purpose, wondering how you will get through each day.
This is grief.
Maybe you have chosen to take retirement and are prepared for what life will be like when your working life ends. However, the reality may be entirely different to what you imagined, and this can trigger feelings of loss. Desperately wanting the security and routine of your old job.
Loss of Hopes and Dreams
Throughout your life you may experience things that have not gone to plan. It is natural that you grieve for the loss of these hopes and dreams. For example, if you are having fertility issues, the appearance of your monthly cycle is a reminder of a dream that has not been fulfilled.
This is a very insidious grief that is rarely talked about. Each month adding to your feelings of sadness and loss, and you feel more and more isolated in your grief, wondering what you have done to deserve this.
Loss of Health
Losing your health, whether that is physical, emotional, or mental can have a significant impact on your daily life. You have to find ways to adapt and adjust to a new way of living.
You may also struggle with feelings of rage and frustration at how unfair life is, along with sadness and longing for that part of you that is no longer as it was. These feelings of grief are absolutely normal but are not often discussed or acknowledged.
There are certain stages of life which can trigger a grief response.
Such as facing an empty nest after all your kids have left home. From time to time we all get frustrated with a loud, noisy and chaotic home and long for some peace and quiet.
When that peace and quiet is permanent it can feel deafening.
The void isn’t just inside you. It is all around you, in every room. You are also adapting to losing your role as parent or caregiver and the sadness can be all consuming. This is grief.
Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you have lost something significant from your life feelings of grief can occur.
When you deny your grief and do not allow it a voice the feelings grow in a bid to be heard and they become more difficult to deal with.
If you honour these feelings, you are acknowledging and accepting them which can often take away their power and their sting.
So, allow yourself to grieve when your life has changed. Whatever the circumstances.
I work with people who have experienced grief in situations such as these. If you feel you need help navigating any of these challenges, contact me now on 07791 941115 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check out my website for further information www.carinasnelling.com.