What grief is commonly believed to look like:
Sorrow, tears, lethargy, denial, pain, numbness.
What grief can also look like:
Anxiousness, depressive, nervousness, insecure, regretful, lonely, suffering, resentment, scared, rage, confusion, irritable, frustrated, moodiness, anger, guilt overwhelmed, isolated, shameful, powerless, neglected, ashamed, remorseful, restless, uptight, fidgety, cautious.
Grief work is mental health work.
Often you have no idea that grief is the underlying emotion driving your moods, because you think you’ve moved on. Another day, another month, another year may have ticked off the calendar, but those are just days gone by.
Grief has a function to do and it has no timeline, steps, or stages, to make it go faster or easier.
Working with grief, is work, its actually called Grief Work!
It’s exactly Grief Work, that is the focus in both our online and On the Farm programs.
While grief can’t be fixed, with the right knowledge, resources, skills and tools, grief can deepen your experiences in life, and allow you to live it through a different lens.
Grief isn’t an emotion; it’s a category that is made up of dozens of emotions.
Here’s the thing, you’re usually never feeling just one emotion at a time, more likely there are two or more emotions hanging out and doing shots of tequila together.
Just like your mother told you to layer your clothing in cold weather, emotions also took this advice.
Emotional layering can look like this:
- Irritability, layering sadness, layering grief.
- Anger layering fear, layering grief.
- Anxiousness layering worried, layering grief.
So, grief never gets fully processed because all this time you thought you were just grumpy at the neighbours or irritated that the kids never empty the dishwasher or stressed because you’re not sleeping well.
While all those examples can be true, your reactions to them can be heightened by ignored grief that repeatedly tries to gain your attention, only to be stifled with a glass of wine, avoided with a Netflix series, or rationalized that the past is behind you.
Ignored or misunderstood grief can lead to other mental health challenges.
When we allow grief to hide out and pretend, we’re fine, over time, it can start to show up as panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, anxiousness, flight and freeze responses to conflict, depression and even in my own case, disassociation.
Mental health can suffer because you have no idea how to do healthy grief work.
Let me give you a few scenes!
Death of a Mother
It’s been a year since your mother’s death, the flowers have wilted, the sympathies cards all put away, and the thank you notes long been mailed. Life continues with the cycle of school for the kids, driving to a rewarding job, family dinners and holidays booked.
Life on the outside looks exactly like it did before your mother died, but you don’t feel the same anymore.
Something is missing, you know logically it’s the absence of your mother, your ally your best friend, who was your closest confidant, but the logic isn’t helping, because there is something deeper, more sensitive that no one told you would be there, and you have no idea how to fill the joy sucking hole.
Death of a Spouse
It’s been 18 months since the death of your husband, the love of your life, champion of everything about you.
How do you move on after your heart has been broken?
Socially things have shifted, your circle is getting smaller, and while friends mean well, they have their own lives to live. You miss the companionship of married life, someone who knows how to grind the ethically grown Ethiopian coffee beans to the exact texture you like, or who patiently explains what is happening in those endless marvel movies because, why is that character even in this movie again?
Loving again doesn’t seem possible, you can’t win the lottery twice, but you know you have much more life to live and there are buds of hope emerging, but you are just so scared.
The betrayal of the infidelity almost killed you, 10 years, 2 kids and a decade of your best years are in the review mirror since you kicked his ass to the curb. Your anger could light your cigarette, that is if you still smoked, but you gave that up for him 6 months into dating.
2 years have passed since you signed your divorce papers, but the transfer of kids at the neutral McDonald’s parking lot, is getting harder instead of easier to endure.
The anger has slowly turned to resentment, as you watch your kids tuck in beside their new baby sister in the back of their dad’s family van. A younger, curvier red head is sitting in the front seat.
Lately all that anger is starting to feel darker and heavier and you have noticed a slightly irritated tone in your sisters voice when you start on yet another rant about your ex.
He doesn’t deserve to be happy.
You crave peace, but how do you let go of this rage?
Loss of Career
A 55 year old executive is at the top of their game when the company package is offered. The company was bought out 18 months ago; it was probably a miracle you lasted this long, but now the travel perks, expense account and loyalty airline points have evaporated.
Who is that face in the mirror?
Who are you without your title, staff, and personal parking space? This has been your life, you loved the adrenaline rush of meeting a deadline, the power of the position, of being the boss most people were a little afraid of, it was all so intoxicating.
Financially you’re fine, money is not your worry, but this sense of loss is huge and while your friends and family are sympathetic, they don’t understand the lethargic, dulled version of yourself you’ve become.
What do all these scenarios have in common?
Validation, support, recognition are all important components needed to help you heal.
But you can’t receive if you keep telling yourself “Your fine”, “just get on with life”, and “just be grateful for what you have.”
You can be grateful and grieving at the same time, they’re not opposites of each other.
Grief still needs room to do its work, and it is work to process the broken bonds of attachment, betrayal, identity, and loss of connection.
We are social animals, we love, and we feel, it’s part of our humanity, but so is grief.
This isn’t about fixing your grief, but rather showing you how to keep all the broken pieces together while processing it.