Grief 101: A Short Course in Loss
Updated: May 2
[I did not write this myself, but this guide was too good not to share. I did edit to highlight the grief associated with divorce]
Grief stems from profound loss. The loss can be the end of a relationship (divorce), being let go from a job, losing a home, the death of a loved one including pets, etc.
Grief is complex and the grieving process is even more complex for many. Some theorists propose stages of grief (Elizabeth Kubler - Ross) and some say there are tasks (Worden) one must go through in order to “work through” grief. Notice how i say “work through” and not “overcome”? One does not simply “get over” grief. One must work through it.
The stages of grief are :
◾️denial ◾️ anger ◾️bargaining ◾️ depression ◾️ acceptance.
Important to note is that one does not have to go through all the stages nor do they have to go through them in sequential order, meaning you can jump between stages or skip stages or even go back and forth between stages.
The tasks of grief work are
◾️1. Accept the reality of the loss
◾️2. Process the pain and grief
◾️3. Adjust to a world without the person or thing that has gone
◾️4. Find an enduring connection with youself in the midst of embarking on a new life (learn to move on and live without the relationship). Again, these tasks do not have to be worked through in order and all tasks are not always hit by everyone.
Side note: grief is not considered to be prolonged until a YEAR after the anniversary. So what does this mean? It means that if you are experiencing and working through the grieving process and you don’t feel “normal” within a few days, weeks, or months YOU ARE NOT BROKEN OR SICK OR DEFECTIVE , YOU ARE GRIEVING. It does NOT mean that after a year you will not feel sadness, anger, pain, etc. over the death either. BUT it gets easier and the “good days” begin to out way the “bad”.
Want to know what are considered normal reactions and emotions associated with grief:
•sadness • anger • blame • fatigue • anxiety • helplessness • shock •loneliness • yearning • numbness • disbelief • confusion • sleeplessness
And this list is by no means exhaustive.
The most commonly reported sensations experienced by those grieving:
• hollowness in stomach • tightness in chest • tightness in throat • over sensitivity to noise • sense of depersonalization ( walking down a street / driving and feeling like nothing seems real including yourself, and everything moves in slow motion and you feel like you’re out of your own body) • breathlessness • weakness • lack of energy • dry mouth •
Again, not an exhaustive list , But I’m hoping individuals grieving see that these experiences and sensations are normal and it is okay to feel and experience these things!
There are primary losses and secondary losses. PRIMARY loss is the loss of the person or object, SECONDARY loss are losses that stem from the primary. For example, the loss of a marriage/partner is a primary loss but the loss of financial stability, a companion, your spouse’s family, valued rituals, consistent contact with your children, all secondary losses that worsen the burden of the primary loss.
So, the next time you want to judge or be hard on yourself or perhaps on someone else thinking you, or they, should just “be over it already” think again. Think about how complex and intricate a loss can be and how much time it may take someone to properly grieve.
Everyone is different and everyone grieves in their own way. But, it’s important to see that there is more to grief and loss than someone or something is gone and you just move on. Be patient with yourself and with others who are grieving. Allow yourself days where it’s okay to feel defeated by the loss. Be sure to find friends, family, or other support networks that can help you through the loss, even if they don’t fully understand its impact.
For those grieving, give yourself some grace and give yourself some time. If it’s been over a year and you still have intense, uncontrollable, overwhelming and life inhibiting emotions and reactions to grief please feel free to reach out to someone just to talk and begin the process of working through grief. Same goes for those who never got to experience and work through grief and just ignored it or shoved it down deep inside you or were told to suck it up and move on with life. You MUST deal with loss. Whether it is the loss of a job, person, animal, etc. you cannot ignore the loss and should be free to work through it.
Divorce Recovery Coach
Certified Life Coach
Founder of Her Divorce Project