Pain In Grieving: Our Guide To Help You Understand Better

What exactly is grief, and how do we understand it in a way that is helpful to navigating the grieving process? 

The first thing to understand is that grief is not a singular emotion, but a Gordian knot of feelings and responses to an experience of loss. Grief is often thought of as profound sadness, but that sadness is often accompanied by anger, confusion, guilt, and even a sense of relief. Because there are so many emotions occurring in concert with one another, everyone’s experience with grief is going to be unique to that individual. There is no “right” way to grieve.

But how does one get through this complicated and overwhelming mess of unwelcome and unpleasant emotions? Gaining an understanding of how grief works is crucial to navigating the process of loss. For those grieving, knowing how grief works gives them an advantage in getting to the root causes of these feelings, illuminating the path towards processing and acceptance. For those adjacent to those that are grieving, understanding the grief process can equip them with the proper tools to provide support to their loved one in their difficult time.  If you are in need of support we are here for you with Grief Counseling in Simi Valley.

What does it look like to process the grief experience? 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote in On Death and Dying that there are five stages of grief, and that these may be experienced in any order or timeframe. Just as there is no “right” way to grieve,” it must be stressed that grief is not a linear process. Your grief experience is not lacking because you don’t feel one of these stages or you don’t feel like you are experiencing them as intensely as you should. Everyone’s grief process is unique to their own experience. Let’s go over the five stages of grief: 

  • Denial: Again, while the stages can be experienced in any order, denial is often experienced first. Denial is refusing to accept the reality of loss. While this may appear as stubbornness or irrationality, denial is the self’s way of protecting itself from the enormity and intensity of the feelings of sadness and confusion. 
  • Anger: This feeling often emerges once the effectiveness of denial has diminished. As the reality of the loss becomes more apparent, a sense of feeling “wronged” or asking questions such as “Why did this have to happen to me?” can emerge through anger. This can be directed towards the self, other loved ones, or even at the circumstances surrounding the loss.
  • Bargaining: Here, individuals attempt to negotiate with some higher power or authority to try to either prevent the loss from occurring or to lessen the pain associated with the loss. For many, traumatic loss is seen as an event where the things in their lives that are certain and reliable are suddenly and seemingly arbitrarily taken away. Saying things such as “If we had only gone to the doctor sooner,” or “If I could only spend one more day with them, I’ll go to church every week” are common examples of bargaining. Bargaining is a way for individuals to ensure that their terrible experience was not a meaningless one. 
  • Depression: As the magnitude of the loss becomes more present, a profound sense of sadness, isolation and despair can arise. As denial, anger, and bargaining fail to reverse or prevent the loss, hopelessness creeps in. 
  • Acceptance: This final stage is often characterized as a kind of resolution of the depression stage. Whereas depression is seen as a kind of hopelessness, acceptance allows for a vision of the future without the person that was lost. To the person who lost their job, it’s being able to say “I’m grateful for my experience and I’ll use that to find a new path. To the person going through a breakup or divorce, it’s saying “At the end of the day, this was the best decision for the both of us,” and to those experiencing the death of a loved one, it’s expressing gratitude for the years that they had to be with that person. 

What is important to note is that grieving is an intense personal journey that is unique to each person’s experience. 

One’s culture, spiritual practice, and societal influences all work towards tailoring an individual’s grief process. Just know that there is no one way to experience and manifest grief that is more correct than another. Different cultures have unique rituals and traditions surrounding death and grief. There are often different societal standards on how men and women express grief. Even children express grief differently, as their understanding of death and loss is just beginning to be developed. Acknowledging and accepting the influences that shape the grief process is necessary to understand and provide support. 

Now that we have an understanding of the process of grief, what are some things we can do to cope and take care of ourselves when we are experiencing loss? 

We wrote a blog helping you balance everyday life and grieving you may want to take a look at. Everyone copes with grief differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but here are some general coping strategies that may prove helpful: 

  • Seek Support: Grief can be an isolating experience, but connecting with others who have experienced similar losses can provide a sense of understanding and empathy. This support can come from friends, family, support groups, or professional counselors. Our Simi Valley Grief Counselors are here to support you.
  • Express Emotions: Finding healthy outlets for expressing emotions is crucial during grief. This includes talking to friends or a counselor, journaling, creating art, or participating in activities that bring comfort.
  • Take Care of Physical Health: Grief can take a toll on physical well-being. Taking care of oneself by maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise can contribute to overall resilience and stability.
  • Establish Rituals: Creating rituals or ceremonies to honor the memory of the person or thing lost can provide a sense of continuity and meaning. This could include commemorating anniversaries, celebrating life events, or establishing traditions.
  • Be Patient with Yourself: Grieving is a non-linear process, and everyone progresses at their own pace. It’s essential to be patient with oneself and recognize that healing takes time. Avoiding self-judgment and allowing for moments of vulnerability is part of the journey.

Understanding grief is a crucial step toward navigating the complex emotions that arise from loss. It is a deeply individual experience, shaped by cultural, societal, and personal factors. By acknowledging the diverse expressions of grief and recognizing the stages of the grieving process, individuals can better understand their own experiences and support others in their grief journey. Coping strategies play a vital role in promoting healing and resilience. 

Written by,

Josh Duke, AMFT

Simi Psychological group is a therapy practice in Simi Valley Ca offering therapy and counseling to the Simi Valley community. Offering an array of services including Grief counseling in Simi Valley. We are here for you in your time of need. Reach out today for a free consultation.

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