Grief is a big concept. It’s a difficult concept. It’s something that most people don’t know how to handle, whether they are experiencing grief themselves or witnessing a loved one experience grief. Grief can last a lifetime; typically, grieving individuals receive support from loved ones for the first few months after the death but are then expected to “move on.” You may have been encouraged to stop your grieving due to some arbitrary societal expectation, whether due to time that has passed or someone else’s definition of your relationship with the deceased. “Your dad died eight years ago. You weren’t even close to him. Why can’t you just move on already?”
Here’s the truth: there is no right way to grieve and there is no timeline for “getting over” your grief. In her 1969 book entitled On Death and Dying, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross came up with what is known as the “five stages of grief.” Most people in western society are familiar with these stages, which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kübler-Ross wrote about these stages as they applied to patients of hers who were terminally ill, although it has since been commonly adapted to those grieving the death of a loved one. The five stages can also sometimes cause distress if a person feels that they are not experiencing them in the “correct” order.
A slightly more broad approach are the “tasks of mourning” as outlined by psychologist J. William Worden in 1982. Although similar to Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, Worden’s tasks of mourning are recommendations on what tasks a person must complete in order to heal. Worden’s tasks of mourning are: to accept the reality of the loss, to process the pain of the grief, to adjust to a world without the deceased, and to find a way to remember the deceased while embarking on the rest of one’s journey through life. These tasks are not meant to be completed in any specific order, but they should each be worked through.
Maybe you’ve lost someone to suicide, drug overdose, or sudden accident. This is called disenfranchised grief, or grief that is even more difficult to talk about due to stigma attached. Maybe you’ve lost someone you swear you didn’t even like or are maybe relieved to have gone, such as an abuser or an absent parent, but you are still struggling with these feelings of loss and don’t know where to put them. Maybe you are experiencing anticipatory grief; your loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and your grieving process begins before they die, or maybe you have received a terminal diagnosis and are grieving the loss of your own future.
Whatever you’re grieving, you are not alone. You do not have to feel shame or embarrassment. Grief may not be something you will ever “get over,” but it is possible to grow around your grief. As time goes on, the hole in your chest left by grief may start to feel smaller as you continue to grow as a person around it, but it may never disappear.If you would like to get in touch with our grief team, please reach out to Natalie Garritano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-650-4321 ext 2.