“There’s a hole in my heart.”
Grief is the natural, personal, internal experience of bereavement. It is a traumatic occurrence experienced uniquely by each person. Our culture contains many “myths” of grief and mourning: we should “get over it” and “move on”, crying is a sign or weakness or self-absorption, etc. There is no “wrong” way to grieve; there is only your way, and no one can tell you how you should grieve. Grief is an uncharted journey. You will learn to navigate it by your own compass.
Mourning is the external expression of grief and the process of adapting to the new reality of living without the physical presence of your beloved, transforming it to the remembered or spiritual presence.
There are many manifestations of grief that sometimes confuse and distress the grieving person, who sometimes feels like there is something wrong with them. These are natural responses to the death of a loved one. You are not “going crazy”. You are grieving.
There are many factors that can affect the nature and intensity of grief and can complicate one’s grief experience. Some major factors are the relationship and the degree of attachment to or significance of the deceased, the way the death occurred, and many others.
Mourning is the external expression of grief and the adaptation to the loss. The Six Reconciliation Needs of Mourners provides a means by which we can gradually adapt to our loss and create the “new normal” of our lives:
- acknowledge the reality of the death
- feel (embrace) the pain of the loss
- remember the person who died
- develop a new self-identity
- search for meaning
- receive ongoing support from others
The mourning process is not linear — not “stages” that we pass through. It is a circular (or “spiral”) journey that we live for the remainder of our lives. Mourning, like grief, is personal and unique to each person, and, like grief, there is no “wrong” way to mourn.
People will try to be helpful. However, if they have never experienced grief, they cannot understand what it is like and what is needed to support you. They may inadvertently say hurtful things. Remember the Mourner’s Bill of Rights. You can tell someone who wants to support you what you are experiencing and what you need from them to help you.
From the Loss Line exercise you can learn that you have experienced some or much loss and grief in your life. Hopefully you can gain some strength and confidence realizing you have experienced loss before and you “made it through” and perhaps emerged stronger; that you gained something from those loss experiences.
Finally…. Be gentle with yourself. There is nothing “wrong” with you. You are experiencing the human condition of losing the deep focus of your love and affection. If you hadn’t loved you wouldn’t grieve. And the intensity of your grief is proportional to the intensity of your love. Love “resides” in the heart, and when the object of that love is gone it feels like a great hole remains, and it hurts terribly. This is a normal and natural human experience. You will get through and be transformed by it.
- How has your understanding of your grief and mourning changed as a result of completing this course?
- In what way(s) had this course been helpful for you in your grief journey?
- Do you have any suggestions to improve the course? Please email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject of “Grief and Mourning Course”.