The pain and emotional turmoil that comes with the loss of someone or something important to us makes grieving one of the most difficult—and important—things any human experiences in life. And not just for the obvious reasons.|
Yes, learning how to cope with significant loss and the feelings it generates is crucial to getting through the difficult times, but that’s only part of the story. The ways in which we cope with losses shape other important dimensions of our lives, like how much meaning and satisfaction we will find, and what kind of chronic problems we'll contend with. But whenever we try to avoid feelings we don’t want to have, we diminish our capacity to experience the feelings that make life worth living. And we set ourselves up for the kind of problems that come with using other things—like food and eating—to avoid the feelings we don’t want to have.
Learning how to properly grieve is one crucial way to learn how to open up more fully to all of your feelings, and therefore, to all the good experiences that life has to offer us.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Letting yourself feel the painful or threatening feelings of grieving is difficult enough, even when you know how to handle them. And most people just don’t get many opportunities to practice using it. In fact, we get just the opposite—lots of pressure to “get over” what hurts us without letting our feelings cause trouble for us or anyone else.
In this article you’ll find some general information about the grieving process, along with some practical ways to work on turning the bad events into real opportunities for emotional growth and development.
The Elements of Grieving
Grieving is not really about handling losses at all—the fact that it helps us do that is just a welcome bonus. Grieving is about handling ourselves when we are facing difficult situations. Each stage of the grieving process involves things you need to do to provide yourself with the same open, compassionate, and supportive response you’d like to provide to others when something bad happens to them. Difficulties arise only when we somehow get stuck in one stage of the process.
Experts who study the grieving process have identified at least five major elements, commonly referred to as stages: