When you think of “grief” do you conclude that it means the loss of a loved one? While that is the most obvious of its meanings it is certainly not the only one. Grief can encompass many differing life circumstances and have similar emotions to the loss of a loved one. Let’s look at other less considered examples of grief to see how they are different in form, and yet alike in the feeling of loss.
Sources of grief
Resembling the loss of a loved one, a divorce or break-up can also cause grief. Often, the assumption is that breaking up isn’t ‘as bad’ as someone dying, but of course, you can never compare emotions. If a breakup is final, then you will experience many of the same things: you will never see that person again (potentially), you will have to reassess your future, and you will have to think of the implications it has on other people you know either directly or peripherally. At the same time, you will have to deal with the idea that this person no longer loves you and that a once very close friend now harbors negative feelings toward you.
Likewise, losing a job can also cause types of ‘grief’. This results in the loss of the future you thought you had secured. It affects your sense of self-esteem. It forces you to reassess your identity, and it means a drastic change in your routine and the people you were seeing regularly. Losing a home, losing a beloved pet, or even being ill or injured can all have similar effects.
Many kinds of grief
With so many different causes, it should come as no surprise that different types of grief can be categorized differently. Often grief is described as ‘normal grief’, with other types including ‘anticipatory grief’ (grief that results from something expected), ‘complicating grief’ (grief mixed with other more complex emotions), ‘chronic grief’ (grief that does not subside as expected), ‘delayed grief’, ‘collective grief’, ‘inhibited grief’, and more.
Learning all these labels is not necessarily helpful as, even then, you may experience a form of grief that defies description or that can fall under several headings. The point is that ‘grief’ can emerge in many forms and as a result of many different triggers. You should never approach grief of your own, or of anyone else’s, with preconceptions or prejudice. Our grief is just as individual as we are.
Grief should never be compared
‘Why are they crying so much? It was only their Granddad!’
If you have ever thought or felt the above, then it’s important to change the way you think about grief and sadness. Likewise, if you have ever thought that your own personal experience of loss ‘trumps’ that of someone else, then you, again, are probably wrong.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that sadness and grief are not quantifiable. What’s more, no, one instance of loss is ‘worse’ than another.
Grief is an individual feeling
One reason for this is that every relationship is different. Just because your Granddad is ‘old’ doesn’t mean you will feel less or be any less sad when they die. If you have a close relationship with them, if you talk to them often on the phone, and if you consider them one of your closest friends, then losing them can be just as bad as losing someone who is traditionally closer.
Likewise, the way people respond to grief is different. Some people are simply more sensitive than others and more inclined to react very badly if they should lose someone they love. Regardless of whether you think they are being ‘overly’ sensitive, that sadness is very real to them.
Moreover, every situation is different and has its own tragedy. Losing someone suddenly can be a terrible shock that leaves you reeling and unable to come to terms with what has happened. Losing someone slowly though will often mean watching them die over time and having to deal with a drawn-out loss.
Then there are the subsequent complications: the way that your children deal with the loss, the way in which your employer reacts, the fact that you might also fall ill at the same time.
No two situations are ever the same, and thus, they cannot be compared objectively. You can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have experienced the exact same thing that they have and even then you may not feel the same..
Seek for objectivity in grief
For these reasons, you should never compare grief. That means you should never judge someone’s reaction as being over the top or too detached, and you should never get a sense of superiority out of your own experiences.
At the same time though, it also means you should never judge your own reactions. Allow yourself to react as you react, and don’t have any expectations for what you consider to be appropriate feeling. It’s by objectively accepting your emotions that you will be able to move on healthily in time.