The Grieving Soul
Each of us will journey through the painful experience of loss at some point in our lifetime. This difficult season of life can be overwhelming as we adapt to the loss of someone or something we have cared about, which can cause feelings of despair and anguish. Grief is a well-travelled road which many have walked before us, and many who will follow after us. That said, not everyone will travel this road in the same way.
Many question whether they are coping with their loss in a way that is healthy, and want to know what is considered to be “normal”. Because there are so many factors that contribute to how each of us works through grief and loss, normal grief encompasses many kinds of behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and rituals. Grief is a difficult road to walk, so how do we know what do to when are faced with loss?
It can feel like the world freezes for a time after we have experienced a loss, and we may have a lot of uncertainty about life without someone we love, or without a relationship, or with the loss of hopes and dreams. Often, we can feel overwhelmed by the degree of pain that we feel and wonder when the pain will cease to be so gripping. We may feel very unsure about what we need to do next, but often our soul begins to do its own healing.
Our physical bodies have a natural ability to heal itself. When we have an injury, such as a cut, our body springs into action to repair the wound by sending platelets to the injured area to create a blood clot to prevent further bleeding. Then, white cells move to the injury site to prevent infection, and new skin begins to form over the wound. In the same way, our soul knows how to heal itself. When we learn of a loss, our soul moves us into a place of shock so we cannot fully digest this painful news right away. Shock ebbs and flows, and with time it gradually fades as we are in more of a position to absorb the painful reality of our loss. As we are able to handle the news of the loss, our soul slowly moves us towards acceptance of a different life. Our souls are equipped to naturally move us through states of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance, in the same way that our body naturally heals wounds.
Healthy grieving will include thoughts such as “I am going to miss him/her so much”, “My life without him/her will never be the same”, or “This pain is so hard to bear.” Feeling overwhelming sadness and despair when we are faced with grief is so painful, but is also a realistic emotional response to this event, as are these thoughts. It’s healthy to spend time yearning for what was lost, thinking about the past and how different the future will be, and also to slowly adjust to new routines, relationships and responsibilities. Grieving takes time, and because our souls are unique, each of us will move us through grief in a unique way.
However, in the same way that sometimes things get in the way of a physical wound healing, things can get in the way of our soul healing. When our thoughts change to “I’ll never be able to function without him/her”, “I’ll never be happy again”, or “Life is not worth living without him/her”, we begin to experience anxiety and depression. While it’s common to have these thoughts surface from time to time, if this is our characteristic way of thinking about the loss, it becomes unhealthy. This is usually a time where individuals may need to reach out for help from a professional to work through these thoughts and fears.
It’s common and not unhealthy to have difficulty adjusting to life after a loss. For most of us, it is the greatest pain we will ever face. Grief is so painful that we often want to rush through it and get it over with, but physical wounds need time to heal, as does our soul. Give yourself time and space to experience your grief, ensuring that you tend to your own self-care in the process. If, over time, you find you are still struggling to adapt to the loss of a loved one, it might be helpful to connect with a professional and together navigate through your own, unique journey of grief and continue the healing of your soul.
Karla Reimer, MA specializes in the areas of grief, couples work, addictions and emotional regulation as well as many others. For more information on Karla, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.