December 8, 2022
Webinar: Normalizing the Complexities of Grief
Written by Rachel Eddins
Grief is a complex process that will eventually affect everyone. This presentation will define what grief is and discuss the complex nature of grieving. Our aim is to normalize the stages of grief and how this process looks different for individuals.
This webinar is facilitated by Danielle Jacquet a Graduate Student under the supervision of Diana Cabrera Stewart, LPC- S.
Watch a replay of the presentation here.
Learn more about grief and loss, and grief counseling.
Here is a transcript of the webinar:
Hi everyone. My name is Danielle Jacquet and I will be talking about normalizing the complexities of grief in this Focus on Wellness presentation.
So, Focus on Wellness is a free monthly webinar offered through Eddins Counseling Group. It covers a variety of mental health topics.
Please subscribe to the newsletter (if you haven’t already) so you can just sign up for any topic that interests you.
A Little Bit about Me
I am Danielle, a graduate student at Houston Christian University and I am pursuing my Master’s of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Also, I am a student intern at Eddins Counseling Group, and I am currently supervised by Diana Cabrera Stewart, who is amazing.
I love Eddins. I am very grateful that I have a place to kind of plant my professional roots and just bloom. With great support, and a great community, I’m able to thrive in this journey of counseling. There’s more on my website page about me.
What we’re going to talk about today is:
- defining the grief process,
- defining the roles of mourning and grief, and
- identifying why grief is complex.
We’re going to:
- discuss and normalize the function of grief
- instill hope
- provide examples of tools and resources to support yourself
Before We Begin
This presentation may be triggering because we’re talking about loss and grieving. If that is something that you are going through, please do not hesitate to turn off your camera if you have a brief response. Take a moment to yourself.
There’s no judgment. If you want to stay offline with the camera, and you want to keep your camera off during the presentation, that’s okay as well. It’s understood. I only ask that you be gentle with yourself because what you’re going through is a lot.
What is Grief?
The definition that I got was from the online dictionary and it’s just that grief is “a common and normal psychological response to loss associated with death.”
There are big “G’s” and little “G’s” in grief.
Big “G’s” are death, escaping abusive relationships, or things of that nature.
The little “G’s” are: moving to a new location or city or transferring jobs. (Again, not limited to just that. These are just examples.)
Grief occurs in phases. It can be acute grief, intimated grief, or complicated grief. There are other forms of grief as well.
Grief overall is a universal experience. Everybody grieves.
At one point or another, sometimes persistently, it’s just a part of humanity and it’s an unfortunate but also a fortunate aspect to it.
What Causes Grief?
- How the person died?
- How the loss transpired? Was it expected? Was it not expected?
- Health conditions or mental health disorders are also causes that can cause you to enter into the process of grieving
- Living loss
- which means that it’s not necessarily death per se, but it’s the end of:
- a marriage,
- a relationship,
- loss of an opportunity or job, expectations,
- loss of a dream, etc.
- Living losses very much can cause you to enter into grief.
- which means that it’s not necessarily death per se, but it’s the end of:
Grief overall is an emotional response. It shows up within your body which is internal. So it’s called internal grief.
The physical symptoms are typically what you’ll be able to identify in association with grief as well as the emotional responses that you feel. So physical symptoms that people can have when they’re grieving include:
- Energy loss
- Body pains
- Shortness of breath
The connection between the physical symptoms is the emotional response. So if one feels anxious, perhaps the shortness of breath reflects panic. Or just that feeling of overwhelm and a weakened immune system can also be associated with emotional responses of just downness.
I think there was something I heard a long time ago where there was actually an individual who had a hole in his heart because he was so depressed that over time his condition developed into that.
Internal grief is the emotional response and how it’s showing up within your body. Paying attention to those symptoms is really key to identifying grief.
No two people will have the same experience in grief in the exact same way.
There can be similarities. There can be ways that we kind of bond over our grieving experiences and our processes. However, ultimately it is definitely unique to the individual that’s experiencing it.
Grief Impacts Your:
- How you reconnect with yourself
- Who you were before the loss
- Who you are presently
- Who you’re becoming
Grief can even impact future relationships. So essentially when someone is screaming and it’s something that is shining a light on relationships within their lives, maybe they’re realizing people close to them aren’t necessarily showing up in the ways that they would expect.
I think David Kessler in his book “Finding Meaning” mentioned that “if that is the case sometimes it’s not that people change. It could be that this is the first time you’re coming into contact with this person and their limitations in certain compassion or empathy in that area.”
But outside of just that, grief does impact your relationships, whether it will lead you to go into more toxic ones because maybe it’s unprocessed grief or the ways that you are connecting it to yourself or just, in general, the way that it’s in the present with how it looks with relatives and friends or just yourself. Because I do believe you can have a friend in yourself.
Basically reconnecting with yourself is going to be a response to how grief impacts you.
Who you were before the loss, who you are during the loss, and who you’re going to become with this process is how grief can redefine you.
From a Sandy Hook Mother
In her book Nurturing Healing Love, Jesse Lewis, a mother of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting wrote a quote that I thought was a really defining and just brilliant way of kind of just giving that visual of what grief is and what it looks like.
“…this journey most definitely was my own and would be as unique to me as my own DNA. It had only just begun and I would be surprised at where it would lead me.”
I just love that because it’s so compacted with a lot of just powerful things. Like saying it’s associated with your own DNA, which is unique in itself. Nobody is the same.
Having it to be a journey as well as not necessarily knowing where the destination is, where it’s leading you, but you’re on it and you’ve begun it as soon as you identify that you’re grieving.
I found that really encouraging but also just beautifully written to define what grief may look like for you. To have that grace with yourself of that it is going to be unique. It’s not going to be necessarily the same as how even somebody in the same household going through the same loss will feel.
Mourning is external grief. It is the outward expression of how you will grieve. It occurs during the grief process as well as providing structure to it. And it allows people to re-engage with their daily lives.
So what that means is that it’s exhibited for different cultures, cultural practices or beliefs, and rituals.
- Funerals: It may look like funerals. Some people don’t have funerals, and some people do.
- Wakes: Some people have wakes.
- Wearing Certain Colors: Sometimes it’s wearing black, sometimes it’s wearing white. Sometimes it’s wearing red.
- Sharing Memories/Family Gatherings: Other times it’s sharing memories or stories at a family gathering.
An Example of Mourning
An example I have is the New Orleans Jazz funeral, which is a funeral that kind of allows mourners to express the fact that this is a loss, but they’re celebrating it. And so it’s celebrating a life well-lived.
In New Orleans, with that specific kind of funeral, the casket is being carried, but you have this jazz music and a bunch of people going along with it. There can be dwelling or even joy. It’s just a part of them expressing that in that public setting to let people know that this is something they’re going through, and they get to define what it looks like. So that’s essentially what mourning is.
To Mourn is to Lament
To mourn is to feel or show deep sorrow. To lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow.
There’s a quote by Mattie Jackson Selecman, from her book called “Lemons on Friday”. It’s a really good book talking about the loss of her spouse. In the book, toward the end, she mentioned:
“In order to move forward, you must learn how to lament.”
That’s that passionate expression of grief and sorrow, not necessarily the mechanical aspect of it.
It is very much possible to have that going through the formalities if you’re going through a funeral, but not necessarily having that connection to that expression of it. It’s the expression right in the public eye and the statement. But it’s not the same as that lamenting over that loss for what you’re grieving.
Stages of Grief
The stages of grief are the famous ones that were proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She wrote “On Death and Dying” in the 1960s and she pretty much coined that process after her own research. Even she didn’t limit it to just that, but it was probably the first time that this topic was given a sort of context or structure to be able to have people feel, at that point in time, normal for the way that they were processing things on their dying bed. Or how the family was processing the loss of that with hospice care or just being in the hospital and just a wide range of different types of big “Gs” and little “Gs”.
The Five Stages of the Grieving Process
The Five Stages of Grief:
- Depression, and
David Kessler, who worked under her, helped separate this linear process that the five stages expected for people to just fall in line with. Maybe it’s society, maybe it’s also the fact that people when they’re experiencing grief, want it to just be kind of “wham, damn, and done”. Just kind of over with instead of it being this lengthy process because that causes them anxieties and different things.
The five stages of grief are just a way to kind of show you what the grief process could look like for you, especially if you’re experiencing these emotions. However, it’s not limited to it.
The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss”. – David Kessler
David Kessler mentions that the five stages were never meant to “help tuck messy emotions away”. It was more so a way to kind of introduce what was commonly misunderstood and that there really is no typical way to respond to a loss.
There’s really no typical loss. This is kind of a con to the five stages in that a lot of times there is a typical loss or it is going to be the typical response you’re going to have.
A lot of times that causes people to feel conflicted like they’re broken and something’s wrong with them because maybe they don’t experience three out of the five stages at all or maybe when they’re experiencing it looks nothing like it was described. It’s just a way to measure and frame and identify what you’re feeling.
I really liked this chart because it’s kind of like a wave. And the beautiful thing about a wave is that it is always different.
So for someone experiencing the five stages, maybe this does work for them and it is a practical guideline for things that they experience because they are aware of their emotions and identify what that looks like for them.
Maybe they’re not as high in this chart as denial. Maybe they’re more so here and then anger is way up here, but then bargaining and depression are down and it goes like that because the wave is very fluid. It can change with each individual.
That’s kind of the visual I want to leave when looking at the five stages of grief. Just understand that it’s really not a measurement of what your grief process will look like. It’s just a way for you to kind of give an outline.
Edy Nathan’s “It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss”
Another way is through Edy Nathan. She wrote a book called “It’s Grief: The Dance of Self-Discovery Through Trauma and Loss.” It is actually a really awesome book. I would strongly recommend reading it. And in her book, she gives eleven phases. So again, this is just not necessarily a measurement tool, but just so you kind of identify what you’re feeling.
Her eleven phases, which I personally like a lot, feel more realistic about what our emotions center around. The way that she mentions is that these eleven phases are not meant to be linear. It’s just something that may be and it comes in and out. You can cycle between one, two, and three and never really get to the other ones until maybe a year later. Or, you’re going through all of them, but then you’re going to revisit it again. So it’s a continuation, and it never ends, much like the nature of grief itself. I really like it because of how specified it is.
1. Emotional Armor
For her eleven phases, there is the emotional armor, which is numbness, hysteria, denial, and protest, as well as shock. The emotional armor is just that context in itself and what you’re kind of wearing in that initial part of it. It doesn’t have to be step one of these phases. You recognize that you’re grieving and what this is going to look like for you.
But it is just something that’s there to kind of revisit, kind of regroup, and kind of process within your own reflection, time, and awareness. “I do notice. I definitely have been exhibiting this and so maybe I’m in this phase right now”. This is just to kind of normalize it for you.
2. Role Confusion
Number two is role confusion with grief, especially if there’s a death or separation. You’re going to be grieving a whole new role that you’re going to be a part of. Maybe if the spouse passes away and now you’re a single parent, which is not something you want it to be in the first place. The big “D” has taken place and now you’re stuck in this role of: “I’m grieving and now I’m in this phase and I’m experiencing this role confusion of what this even looks like for me as I move forward.”
Or maybe you lost a parent and now you’re just associating yourself like an orphan, thinking both your parents are gone and you’re here. Maybe it’s confusing because no matter where you are at life or your age, there is this new role that you’re in and that you’re actually having within this journey of grief.
I really like the eleven phases and I would just recommend checking them out, especially if you can get your hands on that book. It’s just really good and just kind of being gentle with what you may be processing.
3. The three “D’s”: Distraction, Depression, and Detachment
Number three is the three “D’s”: distraction, depression, and detachment.
4. Four is fear and anxiety.
5. Five is anger and rage as well as despair.
6. Six are regret, guilt, and shame.
7. Seven is sadness.
8. Eight is forgiveness, which is letting go with insight, purpose, and understanding. I really feel like that’s such a powerful phase that you may find yourself in or others may find themselves in.
A lot of times maybe experiencing the Big “G” brings up complex emotions.
For example, maybe the person that is passed away is someone that was an abuser. Now you’re finding yourself not only grieving in this process with all these complicated and messy emotions, but now here you are having to go through this phase of forgiveness and not letting go and then an acceptance of it. More so, you’re having to process this with the purpose behind it and misunderstandings. It just adds layers to what it is that this process might be for you, but it allows you to see that this is actually very much normal to go through.
It may not be that you go through any of these, it may be that you find yourself going through them. It’s just a way to help you kind of frame it.
9. Nine is re-pattering calibration and integration.
10. Ten is resolution.
11. Eleven is grace.
How Can You Identify If You’re Grieving?
Now that you kind of know what internal and external grief is and what it looks like, and what causes it, we are going to go into being able to say: how can I identify I’m grieving? A big indicator is, of course, experiencing a loss, whether that’s a big “G” or a little “G”.
Then also you can identify if you’re grieving, and if you pay attention to your body and what you’re experiencing right now, at the moment, after something has transpired. Even in the eleven phases, you could be in complete emotional armor, with the shock and the numbness where it’s not anything that even gives that this has impacted me.
Paying Attention To Your Body and What You’re Experiencing
Just recognizing where you are and what you’re experiencing and what your body is experiencing. As we mentioned, even with the internal, it could be physical symptoms associated with the emotional ones that have yet not been connected. It’s good to recognize and identify because then maybe you notice: “Oh, I might actually be in grief right now. It may not be as hysterical or anything that I was expecting, but I do find myself processing a lot of fear and anxiety right now.” That’s like an example of what that could probably be as you pay attention to your body.
Recognizing Your Triggers or Emotions
Maybe someone says something that you feel was offensive or insensitive. That’s a really good way to indicate you’re possibly grieving over something. Again it’s a big G or a little G. It’s no right or wrong. You can’t fill this if you’re in a little G. Just recognize what’s there and what’s taking place within you.
Isolation and Symptoms of Depression
Another way you can identify if you’re grieving is if you have symptoms of depression as well as isolation. A lot of times with grief, that is very much correlated with that. Those are ways you can kind of identify.
How Is Grief Complex?
“Grief is complex because it’s ever-changing and may come to us differently on any given day. It is the nature of grief to be always shifting.” – Jan Warner
Think of it like walking on the beach. When you’re walking on the sand, you notice that your feet shift and your body shifts alongside it. In a way, that’s the nature of grief. It’s not that you will ever really have a footing on it. It kind of feels like you’re just kind of going through this process, which can be unsettling for a lot of people, on top of the fact that you’re even in this, to begin with.
“The revelation of your inner world (soul) differs from those around you.”
“The “corporate” way of processing grief is another complex way because it robs you of your unique narrative.” – Edy Nathan
So essentially what that means is how you process things and what you feel in the insights and revelations that are within yourself that you’re recognizing are different from others around you. Or this “corporate” way that people grieve is going to make it a little bit complicated or complex for you.
This is because you may find that the way that society is constructed around grief or just the way people around you are processing it, makes it feel like, well, maybe you’re not doing it right.
You start doubting, and second-guessing and what ends up happening is you are robbing yourself of your narrative of grief and how you’re feeling and the awareness and the inside of revelations that you’re getting within yourself.
You’re kind of not really honoring yourself in that way. You’re just pushing it aside.
Then that can make grief complex because the next thing you know, you don’t even know what you even feel anymore.
Complex Grief (continued)
Another way grief is complex is not being aware of how to handle and process events and your feelings outside of grief.
What that means is if before you even got on this grieving process, you were not aware of how you handled stress, sadness or anger or when something happened on a given day and you don’t know how you really respond to that.
Then, when you’re experiencing grief, it’s going to make things a little bit more complex. Because now you don’t even know what you’re feeling. You have to identify where you are in this process while also trying to understand how you even process grief.
Being aware and having that awareness of yourself is going to be a really strong foundation for you going on this unique journey where you don’t know where to leave.
As Jesse Lewis said: “it’s just going to kind of help you have a good footing to the best of your ability. Because again, the nature of grief is shifting.” Sometimes it’s not that it’s going to be this smooth ride, it’s going to be a little unsettling, which causes fear.
Experiencing Little “G’s” in the Process of Big “G’s”
Another way that grief can be complex is you’re experiencing little G’s during the process of big “G’s”. An example could be the loss of a child and then your body has to go through postpartum healing. So not only are you in the midst of the transition of bodily function (little G) that your body is processing this change, but now it’s also among the big G of the loss of the actual child.
That makes things a little bit complex as well as if maybe you’re processing a big G and then the little G is just going through a police investigation with whatever tragedy follows the big G. Or it could be that you’re experiencing a move that was maybe expected or unexpected because of the big G. So that can make things complicated and complex for you.
A lot of times, grief is so unbearable that you want to shut down because it’s just completely overwhelming, and overloading, among other things. It can cause confusion when you get to that point of being overwhelmed. This can be complicated because now the things that we’re giving you sight or insight are muddying up the water and now you can’t really see what’s underneath. So now you just want to shut down and not necessarily block it out, but just find a way to be able to not be so burnt out, not be so exhausted or overwhelmed with even how you’re processing your emotions. Those are ways that grief can most definitely be complicated.
Little “G’s” Left Unattended Accumulate into Big “G’s”
I want to talk about the little G’s because as I mentioned, they can happen alongside big G’s. But little G’s, if left unattended, can accumulate into big G’s.
And what that is, is internalized grief, which can turn into self-hatred, self-punishment, low self-esteem, poor outlook, self-consciousness, mental health disorders, (50% of mental health disorders come from grief or loss. Remember, grief or loss can be a loss of a dream job. And I would even add trauma as well.) and physical difficulties.
Here’s something that’s interesting.
Arthritis is the condition, but let’s say you’re in your prime and you’re having these symptoms and there’s no medical diagnosis that has surfaced from a check-up and you don’t know why you are having these symptoms. Well, a little G left unattended can accumulate into a big G. And now you start having physical difficulties, emotional disturbances, and medical conditions such as frequent sicknesses, because your immune system is weakened, flu symptoms, the common cold, sinus infections, and head colds.
These are just different things to pay attention to or be aware of because they very much do happen, especially if it’s left unattended.
Think of it like sitting, stagnant water. If it’s not removed or it just sits there, then it starts accumulating different bugs, the dreaded mosquitoes, bacteria, and all kinds of things in that stagnant area. That’s the same thing that happens with little “G’s”.
Continuous Impacts of Trauma vs. Traumatic Events
This is a cycle between trauma, loss, and grief. These are just definitions I’ve gotten in the online dictionary.
- Trauma is a deeply distressing and disturbing experience.
- Loss is the state feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something or value.
- Grief is defined as deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.
Complex layers of grief need to be identified so you can aid in that area. – Edy Nathan
So, this is a cycle that’s not really identified with people in their process, especially if there is an accumulation of different things that have taken place. It actually does shift the dynamic of now you being on this journey of processing your grief. What I mean is there are continuous impacts of trauma and then there are traumatic events.
A traumatic event is something that happens and everyone experiences it and most can leave it in the past after it’s come and gone.
Then the continuous trauma or the accumulation of the little G’s leaves longer-lasting effects. What that looks like with this loop is that you have accumulated all these little G’s from maybe childhood or just things in your life that just weren’t going well. And they were unprocessed. They kind of just packed on top while you’re experiencing a loss, and while you’re also processing grief because grief is its own process within the loss.
But now you’ve added something else. It may be unintentional because it happens, but it’s something that’s actively being looped back and forth and back and forth. A lot of times when you may be experiencing why grief can be complex with the old feeling where things are kind of cloudy. This could be a big indicator of what’s going on with you.
This cycle is to help you identify what that may look like, but also normalize that even in grief if you’re experiencing certain emotions and you haven’t gotten to the part in this journey where you recognize that maybe little G is accumulated, or maybe you’re just navigating through the fact that the death itself or the loss was traumatic among the fact that you’re grieving it. You’re having this deep sorrow with that. It’s to normalize that this is something that happens, but also to be able to help you have an awareness of what that looks like.
Complex Grief vs. Complexities of Grief
I wanted to talk to you about the fact that complex grief is different from the complexities of grief. The complexities of grief aren’t the same thing as complex grief.
Complex grief is also known as Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder or Maladaptive Grief. What that is being stuck in it, especially with other things that are kind of keeping you in that place versus just experiencing different arranges of emotions and bodily responses both internally and externally, recognizing your emotions, your triggers, just kind of understanding that maybe there are a lot of things going on at once.
All of this is a little bit complicated for you versus it being like “I am stuck, I can’t move past this, I don’t know what’s going on and it’s been an X amount of time”.
What Complicated Grief is and how it’s characterized as a diagnosis is that it’s a persistent form of intense grief in which maladaptive thoughts and dysfunctional behaviors are present along with a constant yearning and longing and sadness or preoccupation with thoughts and memories of the person who has passed.
- Needs weren’t met
- Maladaptive dependency
- Already suffering from a mental health condition
The risk factors in that diagnosis could be that some needs weren’t met and the dynamic of that relationship, there is a maladaptive dependency, or the person is already suffering from a mental health condition which can make it a lot harder.
For example, if you’re experiencing certain trauma on top of having this grief and now everything is intensified and it’s just increased yearning, you can end up falling into that placement where it leads to diagnosis.
I’m sharing that so you can be able to kind of help yourself and see what would this look like.
There are very common symptoms that are associated with complex grief. Those symptoms are:
- intense emotional pain,
- intense loneliness,
- feelings of numbness,
- not really believing that this loss has taken place, or
- not being able to see yourself within it even though it’s already happening and it’s taking place.
- Things are more meaningless and difficult in life for you.
- It’s just harder to do anything.
That’s that yearning, that longing, that deep, deep, deep sadness, that kind of just floors you, and you’re completely stuck.
And there’s really no way that it can even look that this is going to look up. This is typically seen in the loss of a child or a spouse, among other things.
But I think even researchers are trying to see if there’s even a connection as far as any genetic characteristics that can kind of contribute to this diagnosis. I did want to kind of explain the differences between complex grief and the complexities of grief. Hopefully, that makes sense.
Normalizing the Complexities of Grief
- Recognizing what grief and mourning is.
- It’s a collective experience.
- Identifying where you are in the process.
- What is happening to you internally and externally?
- Recognize that time does not heal the loss.
- Time is a tool in navigating the journey of unpacking and processing grief.
- How Time can be a tool? It allows you the power to have space to grieve, among other co-occurring factors.
- Time is a tool in navigating the journey of unpacking and processing grief.
To normalize the complexities of grief is to recognize what grief is and what mourning is.
To realize that this is a collective experience and that there are people who are going through it, who have come through it already or there’s a similar experience that you relate to. Identifying where you are in the process of grief is very important whether it is happening to you internally or externally.
Recognizing that time does not heal the loss. I think that’s the best way to normalize the complexities of grief because I think a lot of times it’s associated with thinking that time is going to make this better. But of course, the nature of grief is that it’s always shifting. It may feel that it’s better one year and then five years down the road when you’re processing, what the face of this person that I’ve lost even look like will completely change that.
Time doesn’t necessarily heal.
It does ease a lot of the intensity as you process and navigate that journey of grief. But time is what I would consider a tool. I know that sounds strange because how can time be a tool if it is not something we can control? It’s a tool because it allows you to have the power and the space to grieve, among other co-occurring factors.
There’s an example that I want to share that I came across and it is something that I feel helps me identify that tool aspect of time. There’s a story in the Bible and in this story, in this ancient era, there was a time when the people were exiled from their land for 70 years. So they completely were removed. At that point in time, during this era of Solomon’s Temple, which is really famous in a lot of ancient texts, was completely destroyed. So this happened while everyone was exiled.
Once that time period ended and they were liberated, they decided to go back to where they came from and rebuild this temple. What I like about this is that there were two groups of people that were distinguished in this very short story.
Group One: the ones who had seen the glory of the original temple- wept.
The first group of people was the ones who had seen the glory of Solomon’s Temple. They could remember it. Maybe it was the elders in the community or maybe it was people who’d heard about it. Maybe being in exile, was something that they were completely hopeful of, and that it was still around or they would just reminisce on the good time to stay encouraged and where they were at.
So here you have this one group of people who wept during this time. The time is that once they got liberated, they decided to build the foundation, and gathered materials and stuff. It was going to take a while, but building the foundation was something that was so monumental for them that it was met with a lot of rejoicing.
Group Two: who did not see but were glad the new foundation was laid- rejoiced.
Group two maybe didn’t see Solomon’s Temple and understood what it was and what it represented. However, they were just glad to be liberated and in this new place where they can rebuild and have all this hope. So they’re rejoicing and they’re praising and they’re being super loud and singing songs.
But then you have the other group around the same space and this is happening at the same exact time. They’re wailing, they’re weeping, they’re tearing their clothes, they’re mourning.
What I like about what was mentioned is that many wept with loud voices and then many shouted for joy.
Those two conflicting sounds from somebody just looking at it afar could not be distinguished. They were like, are they crying or are they singing? Nobody could tell from afar what that even was like, and what was going on.
What I’m saying is that with time, it’s out of our control and things happen.
So in this new time, for them, this should have been met with the face of rejoicing. But I think it’s so beautiful that Group One decided to mourn. Maybe because of the fact that they just went through 70 years of whatever they went through and lost so many people on top of now being in this unfamiliar environment. And although there’s rejoicing, now they’re just letting it all out.
This is their time. They’re honoring what has come up. They have created a space within a space in this time that should have been met with this rejoicing. I love how both parties coexisted, and nobody asked the others to be quiet, and shut up. It was more of asking them to let it out. This is happening, while everybody else on the opposite end was having this hope, and they rejoiced.
I share that to paint this imagery of time being a tool to navigate that grief and just honoring yourself in that. And it looks different for everybody.
But maybe in your specific circumstances, it could be being in your car in the middle of the actual loss and just kind of taking that time to just mourn in there instead of being present or however it looks. I just hope that encourages you to see how that could be done.
This is a picture I got off of Google that kind of shows what this temple would have looked like. I wasn’t around, but that’s what it was. Golden.
Hope / Resilience is Scientific
The next thing I want to talk about is hope. So you’re hardwired for hope. Resilience is scientific. I want to share a study by Carl Richter. This is a study conducted in the 1950s, and it’s where he decided to place rats into a bucket filled with water to show how long they would survive. (If you were someone who loved animals, this is going to be a very sad example because, in the 1950s, I guess, killing rats was good for science.)
I’m just sharing that because it’s very much tragic the outcome of the experiment. But on the opposite end, resilience is scientific. So in this experiment, he demonstrated the power of hope and resilience in overcoming difficult situations.
Group One: Domesticated Rats
There were three trials, and in the first one, he decided to use domesticated rats. Within that trial group, he had three tiers of how it was layered. The first two groups of rats he put in a bucket, and they both did the same thing. They were in this bucket of water, and they were exploring it, going under, checking it out, and that they were treading. They just died after two minutes, they just drowned.
The last group within this category of domesticated rats, they were in the bucket of water. And of course, they didn’t see the other two groups pass on. So they were just put in this bucket and they didn’t know really what to do. They didn’t explore like the first two groups, but they just kind of treaded eventually. They survived for a few days longer than the first two groups. But then they drowned. And that was it for that first bunch.
Group Two: Wild Rats
So then he had a group of wild rats because he wanted to see if the domesticated rats didn’t have certain survival techniques or skills that wild rats do because they are out there in the world. They’re ferocious, fast, and they’re swimmers. He took a bunch of them and did the same thing with these three groups, introduced them into the bucket of water, and pretty much none of them survived. All 34 drowned. And in a matter of minutes, which is interesting. From that, he realized that it’s not necessarily something to do with domesticated rats and wild rats, but it seems that there’s something to do with hope and maybe a lack thereof.
Group Three: Introducing Hope and Support
In the third group, he decided to introduce hope and support. So he used a new set of rats because the first two are gone. He used this last group of new rats who were unsuspecting, put them in water, in the bucket, and watched them swim. Before they drown, he would take them out and let them rest in his hand before putting them back in. Or maybe in the next interval, he would take them out, let them eat a little, let them get nurtured and comforted, and put them back in the water. He did this on several occasions.
What he was doing was he was kind of rescuing them. In this process, the rats quickly learned that in their situation that seems hopeless, and they’re basically in and out of the water, drowning, that at some point they were going to get rescued and get the support that they needed to continue to survive.
In this study, he demonstrated resilience. He proved that with hope and knowing that somebody’s going to put their hand and they’re going to rescue you again and you’ll be okay. So So, you just keep going and going.
He wrote that “after the elimination of hopelessness, the rats did not die”.
Although rats and humans are clearly not the same, the message is that belief that having hope equates to higher levels of perseverance.
I say we’re hardwired for hope because unlike rats in this experimental bucket of water, we have a history of humanity going through the process of grief and surviving it and coming out with this new normal that is appropriate and suiting for them and honoring the loss that they went through.
We have countless examples, testimonials, memorials, and historical texts and all these things to exhibit. The same thing is that there is resilience in this process that gets you through to persevere on the other side. There is hope.
Hopefully, that encourages you to normalize even your experience of feeling like you’re drowning right now, and not feeling okay. Feeling like you’re in this bucket and you’re just treading and you’re going in and out of the water, you’re barely hanging on. It just feels like you can’t even catch a break.
Still this thing in you is not allowing you to give up. You’re still pushing past. You’re still dealing with the uncomfortable, although it’s overwhelming and unbearable, you’re still hanging on. And so it’s scientific that you’re resilient and that you’re hardwired for this hope.
The Duality of Grieving
The duality of grieving follows this.
The unbelief and how you can move past your grief has created this world of disparity and hopelessness for you.
I’m going to try to explain the duality of grieving to the best of my ability. It’s very simple like that dialectic thinking that both truths exist: You’re falling apart while you’re cherishing hope.
The impact of the loss is keeping the memory alive.
- That’s the thing we see with gravestones, where the fact that this is a tombstone in itself represents the loss. The name and everything memorialize that person and keep their memory alive.
- Another example is a veteran wall. This wall with names of fallen soldiers that is keeping them alive in that memory of what they’ve done and their service.
This duality between grieving is something that normalizes the process of it because it doesn’t have to make sense. Hope doesn’t have to just be magical thinking. It’s just that you’re walking in this direction, holding onto the hope at your own pace, even if it’s kind of conflicting.
And so weathering through your unique grief process is normal. Even saying that doesn’t feel normal.
It’s like this duality of what you’re actually experiencing. Just throughout history, again, grief is maintained and redefining our loss and kind of just seeing that.
Faith in yourself is gathering the tools and resources you need to see the manifestation of your hope because it’s all you really need.
Even kind of recognizing that there’s this duality is still a good place and position to be in. I wanted to give a visual of my own personal example of two songs. This is kind of an exercise I did for myself when I was grieving. I thought to myself, what does the duality look like? How can I honor both sides of me? The two things that I’m feeling, where I do have this slight flicker of optimism, but on the opposite end, it is just complete despair.
I thought of two songs that I used to listen to and having sat and reflected, I realized “There’s Hope” by India Arie really reflected this bubbly, optimistic outlook on hope, no matter how pressed down and crushed I feel. Then “When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson represents this unraveling, represents me having to kind of formulate this legacy to carry on or just kind of process and sit with it and be okay that I can cry and fall apart and not look presentable in those ways of me processing my grief.
That duality of grieving is also an important aspect of just making this experience normal for you because sometimes it exists within that process and neither one is wrong. It’s just there.
There was a quote I really liked in the book “Lemons on a Friday”. Her name is Lysa Turks, and she also has really good books. Her quote was that when she experienced loss, “it wasn’t supposed to be this way”. Such a simple quote, but so powerful.
In the Kintsugihis art, in Japanese, the word is kin is golden and then sugi is joinery. So golden joinery. It’s their pottery that when something breaks. It’s not trash, but it’s meant to be put together. Then you put over gold, kind of embracing the beauty of the fractures. And so this is actually an artist that I saw on Facebook. So I put her name in case somebody was ever interested. She has a series of different paintings that she’s done with this. Her name is Sandra Lett Trumpheller.
She calls this concept of her art with this Kintsugi base beauty from brokenness. It’s basically that we think the shattering of our lives cannot possibly be for any good. But what if it was a way that kind of reformed you in this new way of redefining yourself in this journey? Because there’s nothing great about grief, honestly.
You aren’t supposed to exist as if things didn’t happen to you on the opposite end.
I think that’s why I like this art and these visuals because maybe those cracks weren’t supposed to happen. But how glorious did it come out? Look at the gold that is there and how it’s very much apparent for the person to see. You can also embrace this new beauty that came from it. Not necessarily meant to leave them shattered with the dust of all the broken pieces, but to allow them to recollect themselves. We just find ourselves, we group ourselves into this beauty from it.
There are other phrases similar to this beauty from brokenness, like for example, the imagery of the Rising Phoenix. Right out of the ashes. Then there’s beauty from ashes, things with this rebuilding and piecing together, even though it maybe wasn’t something that you want to shatter in the first place. I really like that painting with that.
It also makes me think of another quote by Brianna Wiest.
I thought becoming myself was improving each part piece by piece. But it was finding the hidden wholeness seeing the fractures as the design. –Brianna Wiest
I really love that quote because grief is a sign that you deeply care.
You were impacted by something that shook you to the core and broke you. But instead of it being that you were just left in that brokenness, it’s allowing you to see that this brokenness was actually a new way of designing who you are in your outlook.
A lot of times, things from these losses can transpire into foundations and different ways to kind of honor that or what it looks like, but ultimately demonstrating that you don’t have to get over it. It’s not something that’s going to disappear because it’s happened to you, but it’s that you keep on living and that you can continue despite what happened to you.
Tools To Support You in Coping with Loss
Tools to support yourself in coping with loss are grounding techniques, which are ways to ground and keep you present in the moment, such as breathing and engaging your five senses. Then, there are meditations like body scans, prayers, and soaking like charging crystals.
Adapt and integrate a new way of living. Serve as a reminder that grief is a part of humanity in your story. You will get through this. There are different ways that you can kind of cope with that. Things like self-care activities, journaling, or relaxing walks.
Example Tool: The Memory Jar
An example activity would be the memory jar. With the memory jars, when somebody’s grieving, they can take a jar and they collect memories, the thoughts that come to mind, and they put them down and put them in a jar. Periodically, maybe they take every first of the month to sit down with that jar and just go through the memories.
It can be done with family, it can be done alone. It can be done in a way to just not have the memory circle, but kind of place them and know you can always revisit and make it your own ritual. You can even decorate it. There are also tools like creating your own bouquet of flowers.
Please refer to the handout. There is a handout that will have the books and articles and websites and even videos to kind of just support you along the way. But resources are as far as social connections, group counseling, support systems, social media, testimonials, church, nonprofit organizations, and temples.
A Swedish proverb says:
“Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half the sorrow”.
So that it would be a good way to lean on and that you will get through this even if you’re not quite there. Just finding that way to have something to lean on or someone to lean on is a good way. But then also so are books, workbooks, articles, studies surrounding grief, individual counseling, and videos.
There’s a verse I really like called:
“Blessed are those who mourn. For they shall be comforted”.
And “comforted” doesn’t mean removal, it just means eased. Mourn, as we know, is just the expression of it. So it’s okay to have that expression, to know that you will be comforted through tools and resources and the navigation of your journey.
An example resource was something that Rachel posted, which was a flyer. It’s for a Night of Hope. On December 21 at 7:00 pm, there is an opportunity for families to experience grief, to come together and just share their stories and be among that familiar environment and also that shared grief.
These are just examples of ways you can support yourself.
Living beyond a loss. There’s is hope!
I know a lot of times in the midst of it, it’s not believable.
I can’t imagine what grief feels like for you because it’s unique to you as your own DNA.
It must be challenging for you to walk through the losses, heaviness, and unbearable pain.
If you would like someone to sit alongside you through your grief process, please do not hesitate to reach out, especially if you know that you need the support.
For more information, reach out to Eddins Counseling Group to schedule a free consultation. This is their number (832) 559-2622 and their text (832) 699-5001.
I just want to say thank you for sitting and listening to me and joining.
To kind of close out, I think of grief like a sunflower. I read in a book that a sunflower has a dark center. It’s always there in that flower. And every time it grows and blooms, that dark center is always there. That’s like that grief that exists, but then the bright petals represent each component to you being in the grief, or kind of having that center around how you’ve kind of constructed this new normal.
And so I hope that this normalizes grief for you.
If there are any questions, please let me know. I am here to answer. So thank you.
Grounding & Self Soothing
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