Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Grief is a response to loss. It is a process of adjusting to a new normal. Grief rarely occurs all at once. For some the adjustment happens quickly; others need more time.
Loss doesn't just mean physical death. Loss entails the end of what someone thought life would be like. We grieve the idea or image we had in our minds about how a person would be, how our future would be, how life would turn out. Death, divorce, loved ones moving away, the unexpected occurrence of a disability, all of these are instance that involve loss of an idea. And what is considered a major loss to one person could very well be devastating to another.
The Grief Cycle
I wish I could say we systematically go through each stage in an orderly fashion. I cannot. Sometimes we become stuck in an earlier stage for an extended amount of time. Often, we think we have fully completed a stage only to have something trigger us into revisiting that stage. Generally, there are no rules to what grief should look like or how long it lasts. Each new phase of our lives could initiate a turn through the grief cycle.
Healthy v. Unhealthy Grief
What we must remember is that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve. If we are endangering ourselves or someone else, this is unhealthy grief. Healthy grief becomes tolerable over time. It doesn't mean the person isn't still hurting, nor does it imply that the person is ignoring the reality of the situation. It means the coping skills the person is using are allowing him or her to function mentally and emotionally throughout the day. Unhealthy grief never lets up. It is ongoing, constant, and debilitating. Healthy grief allows people to find moments of joy, and eventually those moments become longer and longer.
There's Hope and Help
Whether you or a loved one is going through healthy or unhealthy grief, remember there is hope and help. Grief Speaks has a list of various types of grief support groups and websites. Their website also provides contact information for individuals needing agency referrals. Another website that lists support is the Grief Resource Network. There is also the Grief Recovery Hotline at 1-800-445-4808.