The Hidden Realms of Grief...

The Hidden Realms of Grief...
Photo by Jr Korpa / Unsplash

Grief is not only emotional, it is multi-dimensional.

I remember being completely fascinated when I read The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child. How could it be that there was a whole other world on the other side of the wardrobe?

After going through the harrowing experience of grief, C.S Lewis was not far from the truth as I have come to view it. Instead of a wardrobe that acts as a portal to Narnia, I found out that the death of a loved one creates the portal to this alternate reality of grief I call Arogg and not unlike the wintery Narnia, most people’s first encounter with it, is through the frozen and metallic realm of Shock.

After my mother died, my spiritual teacher pulled me aside one day and told me it was imperative that I give myself space to be sad and sit with grief and so I decided to schedule what I call tea sessions with grief.

For almost a year, I had an appointment with grief, and it was during that time that I got to explore the many different faces of grief and her hidden realms which I now share with you.

“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.”  – C.S. Lewis

The 8 Realms of Grief

The Alternate reality that grief takes you to (Arogg) has 8 main realms corresponding to the different ways grief affects you. The locations/locales in each realm refer to the different grief symptoms a person can experience.

  • Anticipation Realm
  • Shock Realm
  • Physical Realm
  • Emotional Realm
  • Cognitive Realm
  • Existential Realm
  • Otherwhere
  • Social Realm

Anticipation Realm

This is the realm of waiting. Your loved one is still living, but you are expecting their death because they have been diagnosed with a terminal disease or have been dealing with a chronic illness like Alzheimer’s or dementia for a long time. This is usually a very excruciating place to be because you must watch your person suffer and deteriorate over time, with the knowledge that you cannot help them. It can be a roller coaster of close calls which send you into multiple tailspins and for most people grieving starts before the person dies in what is known as “anticipatory grief”.

I invite you to explore the realm of anticipation for tips on how to turn towards your grief, connect with your loved one in a deeper way and find ways to rejuvenate yourself if you are physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted due to compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. Also, find and connect with other people in the same place as you and gain comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Shock Realm

Most people enter a state of shock when they first hear the news of the death of their loved one, and this can last anywhere from days, weeks to even months or years. Death is a harsh reality to grasp, and our brains protect us from the full impact of loss through this coping mechanism.

The realm of shock is characterized by numbness, disbelief, magical thinking, fear, confusion to the point of disorganization, and in extreme cases dissociation – where you feel like you are watching someone else’s life.

Explore the Shock Realm for tips on how to cope with some of the most common physical symptoms of grief and connect with other inhabitants of the Shock realm.

Physical Realm

This is the realm of grief in the body.

The news of your loved one’s death initiates the freeze/fight/flight response in your body and activates the release of stress hormones and adrenaline into your bloodstream. This causes many internal rhythms and biological systems in your body and brain to go out of balance resulting in irregular sleep patterns, extreme fatigue, appetite fluctuations, digestive issues, breathing issues, aches & pains and a compromised immune system.  This might linger on for months and sometimes even years.

Explore the physical realm for tips on how to cope with some of the most common physical symptoms of grief. Connect with others who are experiencing similar physical symptoms and know that you are not alone.

Emotional Realm

This is the realm of the emotional aspects of grief. Most people are familiar with this realm and have come to expect big emotions like deep sorrow and tears, anger, regret, and guilt and most of the Kubler-Ross model of grief is associated with this realm. In grief, the amygdala or fear centers in the brain are on overdrive and you enter into a state of speechless terror which ultimately lead to erratic mood swings.

Explore all the emotions associated with grief and what to do with them! Connect with others who are experiencing similar emotions and know that you are not alone

Cognitive Realm

This is the realm of grief and the brain.

Grief injures your brain! Most people have not heard of this realm of grief and that is why companies think it is ok to give people 3-day bereavement leaves. Your brain is on overdrive, and all your resources are focused on processing grief.

The areas of the brain associated with attention and cognition are actively working to put out the fire and there no resources are available to manage everyday life, so you experience what people in the grieving community call grief brain which includes disorientation, forgetfulness, short attention span, and fuzzy cognition.  What’s more, there is also a breakdown in memory consolidation and memories get repressed/dissociated which leads to flashbacks nightmares, intrusive thoughts, mental loops, and grief ambushes down the road.

Explore the cognitive realm for tips on how to cope with some of the most common cognitive symptoms of grief. Connect with others who are experiencing similar physical symptoms and know that you are not alone.

Existential Realm

This is the realm of grief and the psychospiritual

The death of your loved one shatters your worldviews, and the foundational structures of your life, and you are left reeling. You enter a crisis of identity where all your core beliefs about yourself, your life, and the world are challenged. The death of someone who mirrored and validated your sense of worth and identity threatens your selfhood.

This realm is characterized by things like loneliness and isolation, apathy, depression, anger at God, and a sense of purposelessness.

Explore the existential realm for tips on how to cope with some of the most common existential symptoms of grief. Connect with others who are experiencing similar physical symptoms and know that you are not alone.

Social Realm

This is your current reality without your person. This is the realm of funeral arrangements, probates, of going on with the business of living like taking time off work, completing errands, and interacting with people in your life. In the early days, you will have to repeat your story many times and interact with people who will respond to your grief and death in varying ways. Some friends might be there for you and provide support while others might avoid you because they don’t know what to say or how to support you. On the other hand, you might feel pressure from your family to be strong, or might just want to be alone.

In this realm, I invite you to explore the different ways to deal with interpersonal relationships and handle the practical aspects of life after loss. You can also find and connect with other people who are currently walking this path.


The Meeting Point

In this realm, we begin to enter territories of grief that are largely in the dark. This is the realm that connects us with other realities. This is the realm of dreams where you have the possibility of processing your grief through release dreams, nightmares, or meeting your loved one in the fields of merging through visitation dreams and ultimately evolving your relationship with them through dream reunions.

I invite you to explore Otherwhere as a researcher of truth to see what is possible. Also find, connect, and share your experiences with other people who have also experienced Otherwhere.

What Realm Are You in?

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.” -C.S. Lewis

When you know where you are on the grief map, you are empowered to find your way and navigate from realms that cause much suffering into the light realms of peace, compassion, and explosive love.