A Professional Insight on Grief

Photo by Jack Ward.

I recently came across a new (to me) way to frame grief that has really helped me, and so I wanted to share it with you guys!

I have always thought of grief as some amorphous process of feeling and working through your pain until... it was done, I guess. Like the pain is this big marshy land and you have to wade through it and sometimes you get sucked under while at other times it's just hard to move, and then at some point it decides, "Okay, you've felt enough, now you can move on", and a boardwalk suddenly appears in front of you.

Then the other day I went to see my counsellor about a significant breakup I have been working through, and she gave me a different way to look at it.

She discussed grief as the process of our brains bouncing back and forth between the new reality we are living in and our old reality - the one that our brain is not only more familiar with, but that it prefers because it's not so dang painful.

There is a lot of dissonance in the bouncing back and forth as our brains try to find ways to get the old reality back or pretend it's still there. It's that disconnect between the reality we are actually living in and the one our brains want to recreate that causes a lot of those terrible feelings.

Perhaps I'm just grasping for control, but this idea of my brain adjusting to the new reality feels significantly better to me than wading through a marsh of terrible feelings, hoping that one day the marsh decides I have suffered enough.

One, because it's a framework I understand, and so when the waves of grief hit me, I know that my brain is just reaching for the old reality. Two, because it gives me something to do in the healing process: I can gently remind myself that of my new reality and help move the needle towards full acceptance.

Also, if I am looking for something to control, that seems okay. Part of the horribleness of losing a relationship, however it goes away, is that sense that you had no choice in the matter. I'll take some choices now, thanks!

(PS: One of the things that has really helped me in the process of going through this grief is having this blog to return to and write for, so thank you for being a part of that!)


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