Grief FAQs: Contemplations on Some of the Most Asked Grief Questions
I feel lost. What am I supposed to be doing?
Right now, I don’t think you are supposed to know what to do. When you just lose your loved one, it is normal to feel helpless, bewildered, powerless, and overwhelmed. For now, just do the next thing. Eat, drink, cry, whatever needs to happen next, just focus on that.
Your brain will need time to adjust, so give yourself that time and avoid expectations. You will get through this, just put one foot in front of the other until you're ready to start actively planning things again. It will take time, and that's ok. Stay tuned for some roadmaps and guides coming soon. In the meantime, there are many articles in this newsletter that can support your journey.
Is my grief normal? Why do I feel like I am crazy?
“I expected grief to be unbearable sadness, but it wasn’t that at all. It was profound instability. Losing bearings, losing identity, losing your coherent self." - Lisa Schulman
Grief usually comes with very intense emotions, reactions, and behaviors and you might think you are not normal and that something is wrong with you. Your grief will be unique to you and the relationship you had with your person. Grief has many different faces and manifests in different ways for different people.
One day you might experience extreme anger and the next day you might be crying uncontrollably. Another person might be a numb griever and show no outward signs of grief.
Your world has just been devastated by death and you will need to make all kinds of adjustments and this comes with frustration, fear, anxiety, panic, guilt, and a whole constellation of other emotions and thoughts. This is normal.
Your life has changed, your routines, expectations, hopes, and dreams have all changed and so it is normal for you to feel as though you are going crazy because you are in the middle of profound chaos.
Please remember that you are not just missing your loved one. Your body, brain, emotions, mind, and soul are missing them and responding in different ways. When you are able to look at grief from the perspective of the havoc it wreaks on your different bodies (physical, emotional, mental, psychospiritual), you can breathe a little easier knowing that these reactions are normal. Check this article out to get more information about what to expect especially in early grief.
What do I do with all this sadness and emptiness?
I am sorry that you are experiencing probably one of the most difficult things that you will ever experience in your life, and society has not prepared you for this. Most people don’t understand the level of devastation and destruction inflicted on a person’s life due to death and so there are no resources to support a grieving person.
To be able to cope with grief, you need three main things: Awareness, coping skills, and community
To be able to process and cope with grief, you have to first get educated and understand what has happened to you. The death of a loved one causes injury at all levels of our being, challenges your core beliefs, and forces you to rethink your assumptions about the world you live in and re-evaluate your identity. Once you gain an awareness of what has happened and is happening to you at the macro and micro level, it is easier to start the process of coping because you know that you are not alone and that what you are experiencing is normal.
The next thing you need is coping skills. No one has taught us how to grieve or cope with the big emotions of grief and so we tend to falter when approached by the almost insurmountable pain present in grief. When the world feels out of control and you are wracked with a profound sense of helplessness, powerlessness, and existential disorientation, rituals can act as your personal response and recovery team and deliver the vital support you need and provide structure and roadmaps through the labyrinth patterns of grief. There are four types of rituals that can help you cope with grief.
- Stabilization rituals to help you regulate your emotions, turn off your fight-flight-freeze response and bring your body and mind into homeostasis and navigate the daily hazards of grieving.
- Immersion rituals help you turn towards difficult emotions and traumatic memories so that you can start rewriting your story, integrate the loss into your life, and find meaning and purpose. This includes personal grieving rituals.
- Restoration rituals to nourish, nurture and replenish your depleted resources as well as offer you space and distance from the intense emotions associated with grief so that you have time to recover and rejuvenate.
- Interconnection rituals to help you remember and honor your loved one’s memory, connect with transpersonal energies and the millions of other bereaved people to receive support
Find some quick coping tips here and resources to support you on your journey with grief.
Contrary to popular belief, grief is not a personal tragedy but a family and communal process. When you are grieving, community and connections are not a luxury. They are necessities like food and water: something that you need to survive the wild and eruptive moods of grief.
Grief is not a 2 week or even 2-year process. It is a lifelong process and you need a support system of people who can listen, acknowledge, validate and normalize your experiences for as long as you need. You need a safe space where you can rant, rave, vent, and express all your feelings authentically without having to sanitize your pain for fear of being judged and labeled as overly emotional and crazy. You will usually only be able to find this level of empathy, and patience in another bereaved person because they ‘get grief’ and are walking a similar path. Use resources in this article to find and connect with the community.
Will the pain ever go away, and will I get over this?
Grief is not something that you ‘get over’. It might seem unbelievable to you now, but with time and the intentional act of processing grief through rituals, you will begin to experience an unfolding process of reconciliation in which a renewed sense of energy, hope, and confidence emerges as you become able to make commitments to the future.
Over time, the full reality of death becomes a part of you, beyond the intellectual processing of the death, but rather at a deeper emotional and psychospiritual level so that what was understood at the level of mind is now understood in the heart, and you recognize and accept that life is and will continue to be different without the presence of your person.
This does not mean that you ‘recover’ or you forget them, but rather you also gain the ability to hold and honor your grief and their memories integrating them into life while also experiencing an increasing capacity to become re-involved in the activities of living, and experience love and joy without guilt.
Your feeling of loss will not completely disappear, yet it will soften, and the formerly intense ever-present pangs of grief will become less frequent and give rise to a sense of meaning and purpose.
How long is my grief going to last?
"Time to remember that even grief is impermanent, it will transform into something. If you don’t grieve in a way that is true to your heart, you may end up with cynicism in life and fear of future involvement, and fear of any risks. When it is time to let go, let go. You will know. The memories will still be there but without the attachment" – Ram Dass
Unlike a physical injury, there isn't an anticipated or typical rate of healing for grief.
Grief is open-ended. Try not to put a timeline on your grief, because this creates unrealistic expectations and does not allow you to fully experience and express it.
However, people in your life will try to tell you to move on or put an expiration date on your grief. It is ok to ignore them and tend to your grief for as long as you need to.
Grief is complex and there are often many layers and spirals to work through, but with time, attention and expression, grief evolves.
Reconciliation often takes place in small increments and might sneak up on you the way your hair grows without you actually noticing or seeing it happen. As the days go by, you begin to adjust to your new role and become acquainted with new parts of yourself that you might have discovered in your grief journey. You might notice that you can laugh a little more, and there are many more days when you feel better and can focus on things other than the loss.
When you look back at these small moments, you know that you are making progress at the same you begin to understand at a deeper level that grief does not have an expiration date and the dull edges of grief will always be there in the periphery as a reminder and a legacy of the love you shared with your person. With this knowledge comes the serenity to accept the way things are rather than trying to make things the way they were.
Then one day you find that you have grown into a more expansive version of yourself that can coexist with the reality of your person’s death at the same time exploring new paths and possibilities for your life.
My friends are avoiding me, why can’t they support me?
It is astonishing how quickly support can go away from most people even if they were there for you in the beginning. You may lose some friends along the way and find out that many will not be able to be there for you in your grief.
Please know that it is not personal, and the average person is unable to hold space for the wild and primal moods of grief. Death invokes a profound terror in people. It challenges their sense of control, core beliefs, and assumptions about what life is supposed to be, and forces them to face their deepest fears about losing their loved ones.
Many of your friends might have disappeared because they were trying to protect themselves and your presence is a reminder and a trigger of their fears. On the other hand, there might be a few who just don’t know or understand what you are going through and are afraid they might say the wrong thing. For these ones, it might be helpful to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them in which you explain to them what your needs are. For example, you can say you need them to call and check in on you every week or talk with you about your loved one who died.
You can also turn to other bereaved people for support and succor. Try to find community and connect with others experiencing similar challenges to you.
Why do I feel so lonely even when I am with people?
Grief can be very lonely and isolating even when you are surrounded by people who love you or other fellow mourners in a support group. You might feel as though there is a barrier between you and them and they cannot quite understand what you are experiencing.
It is normal for existential loneliness to set in after loss because your relationship with the person who died was unique and nobody can precisely understand how you feel even family members like siblings who might also have had an intimate relationship with the person who died.
With time, as you work to integrate the loss of your person into your life, you realize that they will never be forgotten and will always be a part of you. You can keep the connection alive through mourning rituals like graveside visits and creating a remembrance altar.
I miss them like crazy. How do I go about living without them?
"When you love someone enough to miss them, you’ve touched them in true conscious love. We get so attached to our senses and thoughts about a person as an object, that we feel desperate when we lose them. We feel we have lost something. When we quiet it down and we realize we have moved to a new level of richness of being together." - Ram Dass
It might be very difficult for you to go on with the act of living because you miss your person so much. You no longer know how to be or exist in a world where the person who might have understood you the most and was unconditionally there for you is no longer part of this reality. They might have been a focal point in your life and you now feel like a part of you is missing.
According to the Continuing Bond grief theory, you don’t need to give up your relationship with your loved one. You don’t need to move on. They are a part of you and as you spend time grieving your loss, you can being to work to transition the relationship with the person who died from one of presence to one in which you keep them alive in your heart through mourning rituals.
Death ends a life but not a relationship. Death is not the end of your relationship with your loved one. It is an invitation to form a new one… — Ram Dass
With time as you work through the different spirals and layers of your grief and the sense of physical separation from them, once things start to quiet down, if you sit still and listen, you will begin to feel a profound connection to them not just as a memory but as a living truth which can start nurturing you.
As your life and the process of reconciliation continues to unfold, you will realize that life will always be different without the person who died, but that former triggers like songs instead of sending you down a spiral of grief act as an entry point into your heart.
In an addition, with openness and curiosity, you can also start exploring and investigating the possibility of reconnecting with them through visitation dreams