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Grief: Why We Cannot Simply “Get Over It”

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC 

“Get over it.” These words are not only insensitive, but they are also extremely misguided. In today’s society, grief is treated in a rather cold manner, as if it is something that can be processed and healed within a week’s time and we can then return to life as usual. This may be due in large part to the improper understanding of the process of grief and how it truly feels.

  Grief does not just disappear overnight, and in all honesty, there is no set timeline during which grief occurs and ultimately dissipates, as everyone processes pain and loss differently. The thing about grief is that it often also comes in varying phases, leaving you feeling as though you are on a roller coaster ride of emotions that shift and change from day to day or even moment to moment. Thus, posing the question, does it ever go away? The honest answer, it would seem, is “no.” Throughout the process, however, you will likely become stronger and more resilient, which will enable you to navigate your grief in such a way that it no longer overwhelms you as it did in the beginning stages. But, in my professional and personal opinion, the expectation that we should ever stop missing someone whom we loved so dearly is misguided. As you continue reading, you will gain insight into what exactly grief is and the possible coping mechanisms to employ to protect your mental health and well-being throughout the process.

Woman crying next to her bedUnderstanding Grief 

 Experiencing the loss of a loved one is an inexplicably painful ordeal. Whether they were ailing leading up to their passing or it happened suddenly, the grieving process is inevitable. It may be the case that when you are able to anticipate and prepare for the loss of your loved one, the grieving process can begin earlier. It is important to note that grief does not only occur when a loved one passes away, but it can also follow the loss of a job, a relationship, or prized possession. There is no putting up a strong face in the sight of grief; when it hits, it is no respect of person. Suppressing grief will only prolong the process and, at times, intensify emotional breakdown when it hits.

 It is important not to get caught up in the notion that there is a “right” way to grieve. The grieving process does not come with a manual because you can only experience or process your emotions in your own way and in your own time. For years it was believed that grief followed certain stages, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; however, this is not the case for everyone. Grief remains totally individualized and will require an individualized approach. 

 Types of Grief

  There are two main types of grief, acute and prolonged. Acute grief is often characterized by a rapid onset but is usually followed by an unexpected return later.

 Prolonged or complicated grief can last for months or even years. It can become a leading cause of other chronic mental health challenges if not navigated by the support of trusted family and friends or a licensed therapist.

 Navigating Grief

  Though grief never truly fades, you may find that it feels more manageable as you learn to incorporate the loss into your life and better cope with the reality. Here are some ways to better cope with grief: 

  • Acknowledging and accepting your pain
  • Understanding that grief can cause many emotional spirals
  • Be patient and gentle with yourself
  • Don’t compare your grieving process
  • Seek and accept support from friends and loved ones
  • Employ self-care practices
  • Don’t suppress your feelings (anger, shock, disbelief, sadness, guilt, fear)

Grief will never be a one-size-fits-all, but with the necessary support and adaptive coping mechanisms, you can learn to move forward. 

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