Grief is not exclusive to death...
Many people are surprised when I say, “Grief is not exclusive to death.” Let me repeat that, “Grief is not exclusive to death.” Has that resonated yet? If not, give it some time and continue reading as I will be discussing why in this post. I’ve wanted to address the concept of grief and all of its forms for some time now because I believe it is crucial to normalize its presence in our daily lives. With that said, it is essential to note that yes, grief is defined as the process of loss.
Now, if grief is not exclusive to death, you may be asking yourself, “What else can grief be?” I’m glad you’re asking yourself that question! Neuroplasticity is doing its job! Here is a list of events and situations where one can endure grief but is not limited to this list:
Going to bed- being afraid or sad about letting go of the day
The end of the weekend- being scared or unhappy about letting go of the weekend
Quarantine (during COVID-19):
Loss of connection with people and friends.
Physical loss of places we found comfort in
Loss of traditions or routines
Loss of a friendship
Loss of a job
Changing routines or habits
Moving to a new city or country
Life transitions (ex: graduation, kids going to college, marriage, having your first child, to name a few)
Healing from trauma
Grief is not synonymous with death. This awareness of grief in our daily lives is essential because when grief goes unrecognized, it has nowhere to go. It can make us feel unsettled and even make us feel shame for not understanding why we think and feel the way we do when going through these or similar situations. And when we don’t understand our emotional responses, we have difficulty verbalizing, understanding, and communicating our emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.
So how can we normalize and acknowledge grief when it presents itself in our daily lives? First, let’s understand the many ways in which grief presents itself.
Emotionally, which can inlcude: feeling helpless, hopeless, sad, and feeling like those feelings will never end.
Physically, which include: having a lack of motivation, not getting things done, wanting to sleep.
Cognitively which include: hyper-focusing on one thing, spiraling, difficulty concentrating.
Spiritually, which can include: questioning meaning and purpose, lost in your spirituality, having an existential crisis.
Now that we understand grief in its natural forms (emotionally, physically, cognitively, and spiritually), the next step is to acknowledge what you are feeling, sit with it, reflect on what you need, and let go when ready. It’s normal for shame and guilt to show up when you are unaware of your grief; remind yourself that your feelings and experiences are valid. Learn to practice compassion and nurturance with yourself. Below is a list of validations you can use to acknowledge your grief.
I am allowed to feel anger and rage and still be a good person.
There is nothing wrong with my sadness. My feeling is valid.
Crying is not a weakness. My feelings are not too much.
My productivity, focus, and motivation do not measure my worth.
Resting is loving myself. Sleeping is my human right.
I can miss someone or something and also feel joy.
I might not have all the answers right now, and that is okay.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with you; you are grieving. Give yourself permission to feel and acknowledge your grief because there are no timelines for grieving or the right way to grief. Pay attention to your body. When you can recognize grief in your daily life and can let go of the belief that grief is exclusive to death, you begin to allow yourself to feel what is normal and necessary to heal.
Genesis Morales is a bilingual Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT #107393). She earned her Master's degree from the University of Southern California (USC) and her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Genesis was born and raised in Northeast Los Angeles and has her private practice in South Los Angeles. Genesis is passionate about destigmatizing mental health in the Latinx community and creating spaces for healing. Genesis’ approach to helping others is rooted in promoting self-compassion, self-trust, and self-love.