Jun 11, 2020 Wellness
We Need to Talk About Grief
In modern Western society, grief is taboo. The reason for this is that death is taboo. We have learned to pretend death doesn't exist — or at least, that it doesn't exist for us. But the truth is, death — and grief are everywhere, and we experience them all the time.
The Eastern concept of death is more accurate: death is simply the ending of the old so the new can begin,
and is considered part of the cycle of life. We see this every year in nature.
We mourn the summer as the death grip of winter sets in, only to celebrate the birth of new life when the spring returns.
In the metaphysical sense, death can represent old habits or parts of ourselves that no longer serve us
, and which must "die" in order to make room for the new. We may grieve for who we once were, but we can never go back.
That's why in tarot readings, Death is usually considered a positive card.
Yet, cut off from nature and thus from ourselves, we turn a blind eye to the death that is both around and within us. In doing so, we shove our grief deep down into the darkest crevices of our psyche.
However, this is not a healthy response. Especially when you consider that, according to trauma expert Dr. Gabor Maté, we must go through difficult emotions
— such as grief — in order to avoid being traumatized by them. This means that by seeking to avoid trauma, we, in fact, traumatize ourselves.
Healing through grief starts by becoming aware of how it shows up in your life. You may not realize it, but there are different types of grief, and not all of them involve death. In fact, you probably experience some of them daily without even knowing it.
Some of the kinds of grief you may have experienced include:
- Ambiguous Grief — this is the loss of both tangible things, such as money or health, and intangible things, such as plans for the future.
- Anticipatory Grief — this is when you mourn the loss of something before it happens. This may be very obvious, like anticipating the death of elderly parents, but it can also take the form of ambiguous grief.
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently causing both ambiguous and anticipatory grief at the collective level, on top of the all-consuming grief caused by actual loss of life.
- Collective Grief — this occurs when the collective joins together in mourning the loss of a person, such as the recent death of Kobe Bryant. Though painful, these moments are usually beautifully poignant, because they bridge the divides that normally separate us from one another. Whether for famous deaths, or personal deaths that ripple through a community , celebrating life in one of many ways can help ease this for a collective.
- Disenfranchised Grief — this is when you feel your grief is invalidated, such as in the case of the death of an older adult. You may be experiencing this grief during the current COVID-19 crisis if your losses are "minor" in comparison with those of others.
- Cumulative Grief — this is when a new loss triggers suppressed, unhealed grief from the past.
No matter how this situation affects us individually, there is no escaping the pervasive reach of grief
. It touches us all, in one way or another. The current circumstances are forcing us to face not only the new grief but also all the old, suppressed grief that we have been carrying in the form of trauma
. It feels overwhelming because we are experiencing cumulative grief. All the suppressed pains are rising to the surface. But on the other side of the pain lie healing and inner peace.
So, now we are faced with a choice: we can go through the grief, or we can avoid it, and suffer from the trauma instead.
Going through it is easier said than done, I'll be the first to admit. I've been one of those annoyingly productive people since lockdown
began, and while I'm happy with the progress I've made, I also recognize that work has been an escape — a way to avoid my grief. I was also using exercise as an escape until my body forced me to slow down
through a hamstring injury. With my body limited, I turned my attention to subtler practices such as meditation and breathing techniques.
That's when I realized that the crisis is presenting us with a unique opportunity to go through our grief together.
In doing so, I drew my focus from the outer world to my inner reality, thus bringing awareness to the grief I was experiencing and giving myself a chance to heal.
The healing power of grief is amplified when it occurs at the collective level. Yes, it is painful to wade through years of buried emotions while dealing with all the new, baffling ones that are arising. But it will set you free. So, not only do we need to talk about grief
— we need to acknowledge, accept, and, most importantly, experience grief.
"We will be saved in an ocean of tears," so let yourself feel it all deeply, and let the tears flow. Gordon Neufeld, psychologist
Other articles that inspired us. Share yours in the comments below. Self-Isolation, Meditation & Mental Health in Times of COVID-19
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