The Top Ten Things to Know About Grief
By Lou LaGrand
Grief is an integral part of life and living. Everyone
grieves, although not everyone mourns. That is, not
everyone goes public with their grief. They have been
taught to keep it to themselves because it is much too
Consequently, silent grief tends to perpetuate many
myths and falsehoods that already exist. Here are 10
things you should know about grief that will cut through
some of the cultural misrepresentations that often cause
1. Grief is the normal human response to the loss of a
person, object, or ideal. The emphasis here is on
normal. In this day and age there are still many who
believe grief is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a
needed process leading to acceptance of what has
occurred. If you choose to love, you automatically
choose to grieve.
2. Everybody grieves. No one is immune from the grief
response. If there is an emotional investment in an
object of loss or the person who died, the survivor will
grieve. And, there will be a change in that person's
identity because a part of the person has died. Each
emotional relationship is different and is based on the
individual characteristics of the survivor, the person
who died, and the way they interacted.
3. People do not always become depressed or experience
guilt or anger when grieving. Although it is common to
experience either or all of these emotions, some
individuals do not experience any of them. This is do to
their belief system, the nature of the relationship with
their loved one, and the type of death that took place.
4. We grieve for many things other than the death of a
loved one. Grief can occur wherever emotional investment
is present. Divorce, incarceration, loss of or moving
from a home, loss of a pet, a friend who moves away, or
the loss of any significant object are all causes for
grief for some.
5. There are as many grieving styles as there are
lifestyles. Grieving is highly individual. Thus the lack
of crying or other display of emotion is not an
indicator of the pain a person may be experiencing.
There are many gender differences in grieving. We need
to be aware that we are all influenced by our adult
grief models early in life and grieve in our own ways.
Sometimes what we learn about grief from adults
increases suffering and inhibits the normal grief
6. Whenever we grieve a major loss, there are secondary
losses that must be recognized and grieved. Secondary or
associated losses accompany all major losses. While
death brings the loss of the physical presence of the
loved one, it can also bring loss of financial
stability, a home or apartment, an automobile, dreams of
the future with the loved one, or a source of wisdom,
companionship, or sexual expression. Each of these
losses needs to be recognized and grieved. Some
secondary losses occur months or years later.
7. Many people who are grieving have an Extraordinary
Experience (EE). Extraordinary Experiences are a variety
of spontaneous events that occur in which the bereaved
person is convinced he/she has received a sign or a
message from the deceased loved one. They range from
visitation dreams, visions, or hearing the loved one to
sensing the presence, feeling a touch, or experiencing
an unusual synchronicity. Do not deny the person the
comfort from these events.
8. Grief does revisit. It is not uncommon for grief to
resurface months or even years later with much
intensity. A very sad memory may be recalled, stimulated
by a particular experience not directly connected to the
loved one. Or an anniversary, birthday, or graduation
may occasion sadness and the return of grief. Again,
this is normal and the emotional response should be
expected and allowed to play out.
9. Grief is not time bound. After a month or two many
people expect the mourner to move on and get over the
loss. This is highly unrealistic in most instances.
Since grief is a highly individual process, it follows
that the length of time to do one's grief work will
vary. For one person it may take months. For another it
may take years. If you are grieving do not be rushed in
doing the work of grief.
10. Grief is one of love's natural consequences. When
you love, as most people do, grief is inevitable when
the object of your love is no longer there. However,
love never dies, as we will always have a relationship
with the person who died, and that relationship can be
nurtured through memorializations, new traditions, and
remembrances at family celebrations.