Thoughts on Grief

Sadie Bingham, MSW, LICSW on Nov 16, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

It can be easy to think of grief in terms of the big moments… the experience after losing a loved one, being estranged from a family member, or adjusting to a new health diagnosis. But there are micro-opportunities to grieve all the time, and they can be missed because we think of them as insignificant or bypass them altogether.

Opportunities to grieve are rooted in the process of letting go. When we look at it this way, our options to practice letting go expand. We include letting go of dreams not met, the vision you had for yourself, or the idea that you can control this life.

Honoring grief, big or small, can be one of the most significant journeys you can embark on. It becomes one of those rare times in our lives when we are true passengers to the energy of something bigger than ourselves. We surrender to grief and allow it to take the lead. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are resisting this process of grief. In my experience, resistance is always present right before a true surrender. Resistance is the pain we feel when we are fighting against reality, not accepting what is in front of us. We bargain, beg, and plead for this to be different. Then we realize those tactics don’t change anything and we take a risk — we let go and let the experience wash over us.

When you are ready to surrender to grief, my suggestion is to allow yourself to fall apart. This could mean under- or oversleeping, random bursts of tears, raging out loud, or canceling plans. Permit yourself not to hold back. We must be so gentle and kind to ourselves in this vulnerable state. These moments crack us wide open, revealing the tragedy of being alive and the unpredictable nature of this life.

Pay attention to how long you fall apart… Depending on the severity of the circumstances, this could range from a few days, a week or two, or months. If we can truly stay present in this experience, eventually it will pass. Being present means relaxing the body and attitude as much as possible, doing everything you can to trust the process. One day you will wake up and recognize the slightest lift. And yet the process doesn’t stop there.

When you notice that there is a hint of vitality, the next step is to keep going. This can be as simple as laughing again, going on a walk, exercising, meditating, cooking a good meal, etc. Go with the momentum for as long as it lasts. When a wave of grief returns, take a deep breath and let it wash over you again.

There is a fine balance between the suppression of emotions and moving on. Because once we are returning to some semblance of functionality, there is room to go deeper. It may mean revisiting the past, facing hard truths, attending therapy, journaling, or regular processing.

Some types of grief may never end. Our nervous system simply learns to tolerate it a bit more, day by day. My greatest hope is that during this ongoing process you can look back on this experience and be proud of how you showed up for yourself. When things fall apart, it gives us the ability to rebuild.

Sadie Bingham is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Chimacum, WA.

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