Why Grief is so Hard: the nuances.
Updated: Apr 18
Grief is experienced so differently by every single person that there are as many different loss experiences as there are people in the world. But very rarely do we get the chance to reflect on some of the nuances of this swirl of emotion called Grief. So, let's look at 3 things that we don't often consider as part of our grief journey.
Grief exists inside of Growth
Grief and Loss don't only happen inside unhappy events. Loss can be experienced in growth and expansion too. A few good examples of this:
When our kids leave to go to college or university.
The loss of independence when we get married.
When we are laid off from a job we hate
When we finish school and have to get a job
When we retire
and so many more!
So loss doesn't only happen inside of unhappy events loss happens inside of growth and expansion too. Logic however tells us to focus on the positive, that this was what we wanted, etc. and we focus on the forward movement of this life transition. What we very rarely reflect upon, is that these big changes feel a little sad.
When we retire we often feel a sense of uselessness
When we get married there can be a sense of finality in life as we know it.
When our kids leave the house, we lose a sense of purpose.
Acknowledging these losses can often lead to healthy boundaries and intentionality on how we move forward.
Grief and Loss can be micro-moments.
Grief and Loss can be felt inside so many experiences throughout our life that we often don't pay it much mind until a significant loss opens the floodgates. The Flood gates open and make way for all of those micro losses to rise up and escape.
A good example could be pet loss. Many people's first death experience is when their first pet died. Most people today can say that wasn't really a thing that they were too small to really get what was happening. However, fast forward to another pet dying and it is so much worse. You automatically think back to that first experience and in many ways, you relive it, perhaps feeling sorry about your lack of understanding, while also going through this current experience at the same time.
Or perhaps think of your first experience in a crowd after Covid Lockdown - I remember throughout the pandemic I was really chuffed about not being able to see people and then I was and it was overwhelming and I missed the safety of my little world. This little micro-system of grief and loss waxed and waned with hope and gratitude in such a strange way...it actually still does.
So these small micro-moments of grief and loss happen throughout our lives, and while it is perfectly healthy to shed some of them easily, know that if you are having a really hard time inside of grief, it very often is an accumulation of loss that you are feeling all at once. The Weight of Cultural Spells
Spells are words that we speak, mostly because of cultural norms, that have a ripple effect on the people we say them to despite our intentionality. Simply put, we say things without thinking of the consequence.
A very simple example of a cultural spell is that there is an expectation that really healthy people are strong and since they are strong, they can get over hard things easily. Think of Cancer. There is this constant battle-focused messaging.
"You're strong, you can beat this thing."
"You can overcome this!"
"Let's beat Cancer!"
"You are so healthy - you got this!"
These messages, while well intended, are quite dismissive. People with cancer don't always feel strong and cancer sometimes is present even though the person is healthy.
Here are another few spells that we cast that I see so often in grief and loss:
"At least you had time..."
"You can always try again..."
And, before we leave this thought...I am not shaming positivity, I am shining a light on non-factual positive bypassing. What if instead of saying "Let's beat Cancer" we say something like:
"This is hard, I am here for you."
"One step at a time...let's go slow."
"What are you feeling right now?"
So let's travel back to the original question - "Why is grief so hard?" My response is to tell me about the things you have lost in your life and we will see why your grief is so very hard.