Defining Grief

We sat quietly for what seemed like hours, in reality it was probably minutes…in my mind I was running scripts of what I could say, what I should say, what I shouldn’t say and whether I should simply wait a little longer and then leave. I sat with my friend just hours after his mum had passed away. She was a brilliant lady, the doting mum of her adult boys, the glue of their family. He loved her, I loved her, everyone loved her, and now she was gone.

Grief had left the dictionary and ended up in the life of my friend. 

When we say grief, what do we really mean? What do the experts say, what do I say….what do you say?

In preparation for this week’s blog I researched again the definitions of grief… to be more accurate, I researched a limited portion of them as there are so many definitions and versions of definitions available. I decided to select the definitions I personally feel most comfortable with and also could personally relate or apply to my own grief journeys.

 One definition I read was “a great sadness caused by trouble or loss; heavy sorrow”[1]

Jay Adams in the book ‘Grief – the toothache of the soul’ describes grief as being ‘… a life shaking sorrow over loss’. He goes on to say that “Grief tears life to shreds and shakes one from the top to bottom. It pulls a person loose until they feel as if they are coming apart at the seams. Grief is truly nothing less than a life shattering loss.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines grief as: Intense sorrow, especially caused by someone's death.

The Mayo Clinic describes it the following way:

“Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received. They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties while saddled with their sense of loss. Grief is the natural reaction to loss.

Grief is both a universal and a personal experience.

Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss.”[2]

The fabulous Australian organisation Beyond Blue offers the following thoughts for those in grief and presents many more causes of those intense feelings of loss:

“Grief is a natural response to loss. It might be the loss of a loved one, relationship, pregnancy, pet, job or way of life. Other experiences of loss may be due to children leaving home, infertility and separation from friends and family. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.

Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life; your emotions, thoughts and behaviour, beliefs, physical health, your sense of self and identity, and your relationships with others. Grief can leave you feeling sad, angry, anxious, shocked, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, isolated, irritable or numb.

Grief has no set pattern. Everyone experiences grief differently. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. Through the process of grief, however, you begin to create new experiences and habits that work around your loss.”[3]

For me, Grief in a simplistic definition is: a natural response to loss.

Without doubt the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be. Further, it is often true that grief has no set pattern, but in saying that, human behaviour often does and so it is possible to observe ‘identifiable respoinses and stages’..

Everyone experiences grief differently.

Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years.

There are many symptoms of grief which include (but are not limited to):

Shock, panic attacks, stress, sense of despair, disbelief, bewilderment, numbness, loss of motivation, mood swings, emotional exhaustion, preoccupation with memories, stiffness and formality, feelings of emptiness, depression, withdrawal, isolation, bitterness, hypersensitivity, self-Pity, sadness, loss of Hope, loneliness and many more.

We could go on for days on this topic… it is as vast and varied as the people experiencing its impact.

What we know is that where there has been deep love a before a loss, there will be deep grief.

 

By Steve Morrison

 

[1] Greening Kindah, Grief the toothache of the soul, , (1997), Page 19.

[2] http://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief

[3] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/grief-and-loss