Insights: Good Grief

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We often associate this word with losing a person, or a pet. Yet, in reality we are grieving smaller things every day.

The simple things, such as change in our health, change of a job, a friend moving away, a child going off to school, can all leave us feeling sad, vulnerable, and  our hearts hurting.

Grief is part of our daily lives, yet so often I see people minimize these experiences, trying to intellectualize them, rather than allowing ourselves to feel.

Grief is grief, be it small or large. Our feelings are our feelings and when we allow the process of grief to be what it is, we are able to accept and come to a new place of learning and growth.

Often we have resistance to the learning and growth as we fear what it means to move beyond how life was.  We need to create a new reality without what we are grieving. This resistance causes us more pain.  I am not denying this is a difficult process.  It is, yet this needs to happen for us to move forward in life.

People may not always be supportive of our grief because they do not allow themselves that type of grief.  What we need for ourselves and from others is just to be heard, seen, and mirrored for our loss no matter how small it might be.

There are certain sayings that tend to get tossed around that can be painful to hear even though they are often given in a way to be supportive: “It could be worse.” “There are people much worse off out there.” “With time this will pass.” “You’ll get over it.” “Well, never mind, things will get better.” The list goes on.

What we need to hear is “How are you doing?” “What can I do for you?” “I can see how hard that is for you.” “Can I give you a hug?”

The idea is to not judge ourselves or others for our grief.  Rather to honor and let ourselves and others feel without judgment. Mirror their experience and be there in it.

Again, grief is part of life, and learning how to be with it allows us to move through it in a healthy way.

I remind myself that in life all things have a beginning and an end. We need to learn to embrace endings, grieve it, learn from it, and move through to the next stage of life, which again will continue to end at some point as well.

In a small book called Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg, he explained the ten stages of grief:

  1. Shock
  2. Emotions
  3. Depressed and Lonely
  4. Physical Symptoms
  5. Anxiety/Panic
  6. Guilt about Loss
  7. Anger and Resentment
  8. Resistance
  9. Hope
  10. Struggle to Affirm New Reality

I so enjoyed the movie “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks, where he wrote, “In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt.  And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life.”

Life is filled with potholes. How we decide to ride through them is what counts.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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