There aren’t many constants in life, but one thing we can count on is change. With any change that’s unexpected, sudden, or tragic – whether that’s the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the passing of a pet – grief is right around the corner.
Recently, my community (and the rest of the world) has experienced unimaginable loss. A close one’s spouse suddenly and tragically lost, homes burnt to the ground in the Marshal Fire that hit Boulder county, friends and family losing loved ones to COVID, the atrocities in Ukraine, a dear friend fighting for her life in the hospital. I’ve had friends, followers, and clients asking how to deal with these feelings they’re experiencing.
We often hear about the “stages of grief,” how they work, and how to navigate them – but what if you’re not even sure what you’re experiencing is grief? Where do you start? Grief takes so many forms and until we understand what it can look like, it’s hard to help ourselves or others manage it. Let’s talk about some less common types of grief – not necessarily because they are less frequent, but because they are harder to identify.
Types of Grief
There are many ways to define grief and the Internet is full of attempts to do so. “Grief is love with nowhere to go.” “Grief is the price we pay for love.” You’ve probably heard sentiments just like this. For me, grief is the emotional reaction to a larger shift in your life. Whether it’s unexpected or it was a long time coming, it’s still a shift that leaves you adjusting to the change.
It’s important to note that grief isn’t just mourning a death or recovering from a breakup. You can lose a job and grieve the income, the connection with colleagues, the focus and experience it gave you. On the other side, you can grieve the loss of an amazing employee or the ability to find good ones and what that means for your business.
You can grieve childhood and the loss of carefree innocence – the lack of adulting required to navigate through each choice. It’s the old adage “You can never go home again.” Aging can bring about grieving the loss of mental and physical abilities.
You can grieve the loss of certainty and control. Tons of people struggled with the loss of freedom and control when mask mandates and illness began sweeping the world with the pandemic. The uncertainty pushed many of us into anxiety and frustration with the lack of solid ground.
Whatever you’re going through – it’s all absolutely valid.
Here’s a list of the various types of grief I’ve personally encountered in myself and others – but there are absolutely others as well:
- Divorce grief
- Miscarriage grief
- Holiday grief
- Pet grief
- Occupational grief
- Identity grief
- Anticipatory grief
- Chronic grief
How do I help someone experiencing grief?
First – it’s impossible to truly know what someone is going through. You don’t have their background and experiences that feed into this moment of struggle and pain. You may be able to relate on a situational level and yet, statements like “I know how you feel” or “I know what you’re going through” fall short.
Be a listening ear. Acknowledge their emotions and avoid trying to “fix” it. Unless specifically asked for, offering advice on how to deal with grief can feel more like “shoulds” and added weight.
What do you say to someone who is grieving? Here are some examples of phrases to use that will help your loved ones feel supported:
“Wow, that’s terrible.”
“I wish I could help ease your burden.”
“I’m sad you’re going through this.”
“What can I take off your plate this week to help you?”
“Would you mind if I just sat with you so you’re not alone?”
How can I support myself while I move through grief?
Tune in. What do you need – right here, right now?
Sometimes a counselor or therapist can be the perfect support to help you process through the hardest moments of grief. They can give you tips and tools to work with and learn how to accept instead of fighting against loss. With a Grief Coach or licensed mental health practitioner, you can learn tools to help you lessen the pain while accepting the emotions that arise from your experience. They’ll ask you questions like:
- What gives you the most comfort right now?
- What is your absolute favorite memory of the bereaved?
- Have you allowed yourself to feel the extent of your grief?
Think you might need a Grief Coach or a Licensed Therapist? Here are a few to check out:
Support groups can help you see you’re not alone, other people are struggling with the same stuff, and this simple fact makes it easier to continue healing and coping. It’s an easy search and whether in person or online, you can find a group for almost any issue. There is truly strength in numbers.
If you’re more of an independent person you may find books, meditation, and self-guided classes you can take to help navigate through.
Self-care in general can help you shift and heal as well. Journaling, physical activity to move the emotion, naps, quiet time, or really loud intense music, tune into what you need. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, how can you nurture yourself as you stumble along? If you need some ideas for self-care, we’ve got you covered.
The thing to remember is this: you never truly “get rid of” grief. There has been a shift, a change, and this change is difficult. You learn how to live with grief. Some days it will feel nonexistent while on others you may be unable to deal or function. It will ebb and flow. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL AND OKAY. We all deal with grief differently, allow it to be exactly as you feel it. This is your experience. While it won’t “go away,” it absolutely will get easier.
My Experience with Grief
At 33 years old, I experienced a huge life shift. I questioned my marriage, my childhood, my religion, and everything I had believed and clung to up to that point seemed to suddenly be wrong and challenging. There had been hints and clues for quite some time and yet a perfect storm brought me to a licensed counselor’s office.
Through our sessions, I learned to navigate the grief and insecurity of losing my once solid foundation. My religion helped me walk a “straight and narrow path” and yet that path was also causing panic attacks, shame, and a belief I was unworthy of love and acceptance.
As I left an unhealthy marriage, relationships I thought were solid crumbled, judgments flew, and I found myself without the community I had relied on for so many years. Laying an old me and way of living to rest and seeking a new life brought uncertainty and pain. Lost friendships and connections left me sad and angry. My counselor helped me cope. The most powerful question ever asked of me came from him. “If you are picking up more burdens than you’re putting down, then why are you doing it?”
This question was a pivotal point in my healing and processing. Don’t get me wrong – I still grieve the loss of many of those relationships. On occasion, I miss them and am saddened by the wonder of “what could have been” or wondering how they’re doing yet feeling unable to reach out. In the same aspect, I’m able to acknowledge the gift they were in their season and move forward.
I hope you find the answers you’re looking for. I pray you’re able to grant yourself compassion and the space to heal. If you’d like to learn more about coping with grief, check out this Breathe In, Breathe Out episode I recorded with grief coach Erika Schreck: 47: How to Move Forward in Grief with Erika Schreck. Finally, if you’re looking for a safe space where you can feel loved and supported, follow me on Facebook and Instagram – we’ll be waiting for you 🙂