The Many Faces of Grief


Losing friends or loved ones hurts. It hurts deeply. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. And it feels as if will never end. Many people have their own wisdom about death, their own understandings of what it all means. This can certainly be offered to assist others in their process, but should never be imposed.

We cannot tell others how to grieve, or what a death means, because grief is a highly individual experience. Everyone must go through the experience at their own pace, and in their own way. The story of life, and the role of any one person in a life, is unique for each individual. Some take death in stride, and others can be devastated by hearing of a death of someone they don’t even know.

In the human family, we are all connected, whether we realize it or not. On some level, what happens to one, affects the whole. We see ourselves as individuals, but each of our hearts may be but one cell in the universal human heart. In times of shared grief, we feel this connection. The walls of separation come down for a time, or forever, and we are closer to each other.

There is only one thing we can do with the pain, and that is to feel it. Grief can put a strain on relationships, because when we are overwhelmed by our own pain, it is hard to tune in to the needs of others. And grief is expressed through more than just tears. Sometimes it comes out as anger , hostility, irritability, withdrawal, or depression . This may be especially true for young people, because they may not be used to sharing their intimate feelings with their parents, for example. Yet in times of grief their feelings are so close to the surface, that they may unconsciously resort to anger or distancing, to cover these intense feelings.

We cannot assume, either, that because a few weeks or months have gone by, that grieving people will feel better and move on with their lives. Sometimes it takes a while for the finality of death to sink in, and the more time that passes, the more we may miss the individual who has passed on.

Assisting others in their grief means remaining sensitive to what is spoken, and what is unspoken. It means giving them the time, space and freedom to grieve in their own way. And it means realizing that at times like this it is probably best to ‘think’ with our hearts.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.

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