Grief is a natural human response to the loss of a loved one. Death is an inevitable end point and the circle of grief hits us in waves, moving in and out of emotional stages. The challenge of accepting death and dying as the end stage of life is what the grieving process is all about.
While it is a normal response to any loss, grief can be very difficult to navigate by ourselves. We feel the loss of “how it used to be” and struggle to accept our current position.
Grief is a complex amalgamation of thoughts, feelings, personal beliefs, and values. Many clients have described it as “a rollercoaster of emotions”. When complicated and/or unresolved, it has the tendency to produce depression, anxiety, and isolation.
There is also “disenfranchised” grief. This is grief that is not usually openly acknowledged, socially accepted, or publicly mourned. These losses include the loss of a pet, the death of a fetus, loss of a body part, loss of a cognitive or physical abilities, personality change from dementia, and loss of a loved one who is not “blood related” (i.e. a childhood friend who is like a sibling, an intimate partner, in-laws).
The good news is that grief can become more manageable given time, attention, and patience. When we allow others to assist us with our grieving, the effects are heartening.
VUMC faculty and staff members who would like to help a grieving colleague may review our previous article, What Do I Say When Someone is Grieving?, or refer them to set up an appointment to talk confidentially with an EAP counselor at Work/Life Connections at 615-936-1327.