What is grief? Google it and get the definition that grief is the reaction to a major loss, and that it is usually a painful and an unhappy emotion. That doesn’t seem to do justice to the complexities of it. It is described as an emotion, which to me almost makes it seem like something transient. But as anyone who has grieved knows, it is a process that takes a substantial amount of time and energy and almost always goes on longer than we think it should. We somehow always think that the easy things should last and the hard ones pass quickly.

I was recently involved in a discussion on grief. Between all of us the only constant truth was that grief is hard and we all do it our own way. The way each of us copes may not always be the most functional way. Sometimes we withdraw, or make bad decisions, or become immobilized. People have a lot of different ways of coping with grief, some good for them and some not. The most important part seemed to be acknowledging the experience and not judging it. This can be challenging in a society that has trouble acknowledging grief. Our family and friends can be supportive for a period of time, but then most people do not know what to do anymore. It can be difficult to be around someone that is unhappy or depressed. It makes us feel helpless which is not something most of us are comfortable feeling. I know one of the hardest things I do as a therapist is to sit with someone as they are struggling with their pain. To just be with someone who is sad and not try to do anything to make it better is very challenging. That is what people need, someone to let them have their feelings without judgment. When we try to make someone feel better or solve their problems it invalidates their experience. This is why people that suffer from grief do best with either individual therapy or a support group. You either need to have been trained or to have been through it to be able to sit quietly with someone suffering.

I encourage those who are grieving to share it, talk about it to others who understand, and get it out of your head. Ask for what you need. And be kind to yourself.

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