Coping with Loss and Grief

The other day I was sitting at a Doctor’s Clinic and there were couple of people just standing there waiting to go in. After someone randomly asks me what I do for a living and I answered that I am a psychologist, a woman who was looking away turns her head and asks me in a clear and firm voice ” My husband recently passed away and I still haven’t shed a tear. I wonder what that says about me”. People who were hearing her speak looked at her with surprise and I could sense that they were somehow judging. It was painfully clear that this person had a lot of intense mixed emotions as her eyes gets watery. I could sense it in her voice and in the way she was talking; focusing on the words she’s saying and controlling her emotions. She went on to say that her husband passed away couple of weeks ago and she has not been able to express herself emotionally or through crying. As she was talking, I could feel how angry this woman was… how angry and how Broken. Underneath all this anger, there were a lot of defenses, a lot of rationalization, a lot of anxiety, a lot of emotions and much more ….

She kept on talking about how she is now focusing on solving some pending problems and controlling her emotional expression (Instrumental Grieving) and also wondering and asking me if this makes her “Abnormal” and “Different from anybody else”. What I am sure of is that this makes her  only human…this makes her a person who is going through an extremely painful, confusing, life-changing, troubling, heart-wrecking and immensely hard transitional period. Her coping pattern, in whichever way it is, makes her only human. Even though it might not make a lot of sense to other people, even though it does not follow the “norm of grieving” that we might be familiar with, even though it sometimes takes TIME for the person to let go of the emotions (rage, sadness, anger, guilt….) associated with the grieving, it is still a grieving process and this is still a person who is in need of support to get to the end of the tunnel and to see the light. Grief is not only experienced when we lose someone close to us because of the fact that we won’t be seeing them or be connected to them physically and emotionally. Grief is also experienced when the passing away of the person is also associated with the death of other life essentials – The death of Hope; hope that the person will change, will say things we need to hear …. – The death of Dreams; to share life experiences and life events with this person… -The death of Completion and Wholeness; feeling that you are whole and complete….and many many other losses. The person grieves many losses and every person grieves differently.

Accepting people’s coping mechanisms, and in specific their personal grieving experiences is important. Compassion, support, validation, empathy and accepting “where the person is” are all essential factors that can very much scaffold the person going through this hard and transitional period. No one way of grieving is better than any other. In such a situation, the human being acts in the “best way” he can, knows and is capable of, we need to respect that and be present to welcome and embrace the emotions when the person is ready to come in contact with them.

“The only people who think there is a time limit for Grief have never lost a piece of their Heart. Take all the time you need”


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