The Many Faces of Grief

I recently read a post about an adult problem nobody prepared us for and one answer given that caught my attention and well resonated with me was grief. We’ve all experienced grief and the one most known to us is grieving the loss of a loved one. Grief as described by Wikipedia is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or some living thing that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Mayo Clinic describes grief as a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received. The Wiki definition is what is the most common definition of grief known to most of us. But individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship. We’ve all experienced all or some of these types of losses in some way. We’ve grieved without knowing we were grieving because we at most times tend to relate to the grief of losing someone or a living thing like a pet.

I was first introduced to theoretical grief during my undergraduate studies in the Thanatology class. In her book On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross describes the different stages of grief. Though not cast in stone, these stages are different. Rather, grief is different for each person. It has come to be known that grief is unpredictable and personal. Many people expect to experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as described by Elizabeth. But this is not the case. Some people might go through all the stages and reach acceptance after loss while some might go straight to acceptance. The individualization and unpredictability of grief are necessary to be noted so we don’t judge and cast in stone how grief should be. I have previously found myself questioning the grief of other people without putting in mind that we are all different. When we lost our brother, I by then believed that the person who truly grieved for him was my dad. He had not had a drink for four years but after Tom passed, dad found comfort in the bottle. I cried not once but so many times before and after his burial. We were all grieving but differently. Some of us may have gone through all the stages while some didn’t. It was different and personal for all of us.

I know you can think of the many other things you have grieved for without necessarily being a loss of a loved one, without you knowing you were grieving.  Be it loss of a job, a relationship or friendship breakup, loss of oneself, the uncertainty of moving on from one chapter in life to another or moving jobs etc. The list is endless. One time I was having difficulties in my relationship and thought it was unsalvageable. I sorrowed for nearly two months while getting ready to let go. I remember telling myself that I was grieving. I was aware I was. I felt the loss. It had not yet happened but I imagined and thought that it would happen and so I grieved.

There is no proper way to grieve. It can be short or long lived. Acknowledging the different forms of grief for us and those around us and understanding this aspect of humans and how our expectations of other people can be damaging will help us be more empathetic. If left unhandled, prolonged grief can lead to isolation or chronic illnesses. On the other hand, attempts to suppress or deny grief can prolong the process and make things more complicated for us.

About the Author

Brenda is a psychologist, social change enthusiast, mentor and coach to high school students. She holds a degree in Psychology from Moi University. She is currently running an Initiative called Niwezeshe aimed at promoting youth mental health and well being. She is an explorer who loves volunteering, giving talks and crocheting.