Grief: A Neglected and Misunderstood Process

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Therefore, the feelings you are having are also normal and natural for you. The problem is that we have all been socialized to believe that these feelings are abnormal and unnatural.

While grief is normal and natural, and clearly the most powerful of all emotions, it is also the most neglected and misunderstood experience, often by both the grievers and those around them.

Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a -familiar pattern of behavior.What is meant by conflicting feelings? We will explain by example. When someone you love dies after suffering a long illness, you may feel a sense of relief that your loved one’s suffering is over. That is a positive feeling, even though it is associated with a death. At the same time, you may realize that you can no longer see or touch that person. This may be very painful for you. Theseconflicting feelings, relief and pain, are totally normal in response to death.

What about divorce? Are there conflicting feelings too? Yes. You may feel a genuine sense of freedom now that the battles are over. That is a positive feeling. At the same time, you may be afraid that you will never “find someone as beautiful/as good a provider.” These conflicting feelings, freedom and fear, are also natural responses to loss.

All relationships have aspects of familiarity whether they are romantic, social, familial, or business. What other losses cause similar conflicting feelings? While death and divorce are obvious, many other loss experiences have been identified that can produce grief. Among them are:

Death of a pet
Starting school
Death of a former spouse
End of addictions
Major health changes
Financial changes-positive or negative
Legal problems
Empty nest
Often these common life experiences are not seen as grieving events. We grieve for the loss of all relationships we deem significant – which are thus also emotional.

Several other losses identified include: loss of trust, loss of safety, and loss of control of one’s body (physical or sexual abuse). Society still does not recognize these losses as grief issues.

From Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.


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