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What is Grief?

by Chaplain Julia Rajtar, MAPS, BCC

After her father’s death, a bereaved adult daughter shared that she didn’t understand why everyone in the family was so sad. Dad was at times verbally abusive to his family, and each one grieved so differently, yet he was the dad of all 4 children. As we began talking about her relationship with her father, she shared that her grief felt both like a relief and some sadness. Her relief came from the reality that he could no longer verbally abuse her and the reality that he was still her father. For her that meant, she was grieving the loss of her assumption of the father she had always hoped he would be for her, and of course his physical absence. She acknowledged the relief from the emotional and mental pain he inflicted upon her throughout her life, some guilt over not feeling as sad as the others, and appreciated the validation of her feelings and thoughts.

Each bereaved individual will grieve in their own way and in their own timeline. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss. It is like riding a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. It does not have stages and there is no timeline for grief. If we loved, we will always grieve, it will quiet down at some point. Grief is an adaptive process that helps us to integrate loss, change, and transition into our lives. Grief may be painful, but it is also a healthy healing process, not a sign that something is wrong with us. Here is a helpful link: Sunday Morning Zen/Darcy Harris/Encompassing Grief with Compassion

Common reactions accompanying mourning after any type of death include sadness and sorrow, a deep yearning to have the person back, and confusion about how to live without their loved one. All grief involves feelings of loss, and all loss requires learning how to live in a permanently changed world, where love and memory must replace physical presence. As we grieve, we learn to live with and integrate the experience, so that once again, we may find purpose and joy in life.

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