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  • Writer's pictureEric Fisher

Seven parts on the topic of grief

Updated: Jan 29

Two people grieving together for a loss of someone they know.

If someone lives long enough, grief will enter their midst. The experience of grieving isn’t something we wish upon ourselves. It isn’t something we want even our worst enemy to face. They, too, will experience the foreboding loss from someone or something considered untouchable (e.g., worldview, job, spirituality).

We will examine seven parts on the topic of grief with this brief note.

1. There is a universality to grief. No culture is immune. No socioeconomic status shields from loss. The essence of grief touches everyone and everything we hold dear; this includes an idea we may grieve because the content becomes invalid, outdated, or destroyed by self-sabotage or forces beyond our control. An example is that we reside in a safe environment until an assault in public leaves us with fear, distrust, and anger. A worldview shattered. The loss of safety. The loss of what once was.

2. Grief is always complicated. However, when it comes to treatment in a clinical sense, grief can be uncomplicated or complicated. Complicated grief involves being shackled to the “if only” statements long past their natural expiration date. These often will fade in time. In addition, with complicated grief, the self-talk saturated with regret continues with tenacity. Overwhelming guilt and shame are also seen with complicated grief, as is feeling “stuck” and having an inability to reinvest in life to a particular degree after a loss. The duration before an organic reaction to loss becomes maladaptive depends on the circumstances, previous experiences with loss, level of resilience, and a host of additional factors. There is no magical deadline for grief turning from natural to complicated. I recommend researching complicated grief for further understanding.

3. Grief is never damaging unless you hurt yourself or someone else. Therein lies the concern with complicated grief. Grief counselling is for processing an uncomplicated loss with someone, joining them as an aid and providing a safe space to talk about what or who was lost. Grief therapy, on the other hand, is reserved for the complicated grief that impairs someone emotionally, socially, mentally, occupationally, physically, or spiritually. Being stuck in grief does not make you a bad person, a person who wants attention, or someone who doesn’t understand how to grieve appropriately. It is simply how the grieving manifests for you.

4. We don’t look at grief in stages as much as we did in the past. Most people in the public sphere know of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief, DABDA (i.e., denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), also known as the Kübler-Ross Model. The face validity for these stages is very high. However, many clinicians are finding the benefit of seeing grief as task models rather than stages. Stages make it seem as if grief has a beginning and end. Complete all the stages, and you are good to pass. Go and collect your prize for finishing! No, I’m afraid. Some may skip the proposed steps, some may not go through certain stages, and others may go through the stages out of order. Stages give the notion that if I don’t go through these stages as they are set out, then I am grieving wrongly. That is not the case whatsoever.

Tasks models are more equipped to show a person's fundamental actions as they move forward in their grieving response. Each person engages in a task at their own pace. The language of comparable task models holds similar themes with obvious overlap. An example is with needing to experience the emotional pain of a loss. Most task models bring this up in one form or another. Grief tasks are unique to the individual. No one experiences the tasks in the same way.

5. We do not move through our grief but toward an integrated relationship with grief with our feelings, thoughts, rituals, goals, reinvestment in life, relationships, and meaning-making. Mourning is the external manifestation of felt grief. Mourning will show how we have moved from an acute grief response to a more integrated response with grief that ebbs and flows as we move through different stages in our lives. Take solace in knowing grief will always be dependable when bittersweet memories arise. Grief shows you remember.

6. Making meaning out of a loss is often a task further down the list. This usually doesn’t come fast or easy. We are trying to make sense of something that does not make sense, namely, the loss and its impact on us. Take your time, and don’t force yourself to determine the meaning. Allow the meaning to come through the process. Perhaps meaning will reflect advocation for a specific cause. This may be empathy for others going through similar losses. This may entail volunteering. Finding meaning in a loss is a very personal endeavour. The meaning doesn’t have to be a significant discovery and could be multiple pieces. It may include learning how to empathize with yourself.

7. Finally, withstand the pressure to grieve at someone else’s pace and expectation. Family members will react to a single loss in different ways based on gender, age, resilience level, and attachment style, to name a few. How you grieve is no better or worse than someone else unless, again, you are hurting yourself or someone else emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually.

I am bringing to your attention the parts listed above, which are a few factors involving grief. Please take away the information in a way that applies to your relationship with grief. I send you my heart for the losses endured, losses witnessed by those you adore, and losses yet to come. Hold onto you through the grief. Be with you. Reach out to others who will not invalidate, say ignorant statements, or bring toxic positivity. Surround yourself with authentic people who speak from the heart while acknowledging you with empathy and active listening.

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