Grief Beyond Tears
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
GRIEF IN RECENT TIMES
If you’ve read about grief or loss at some point in your life, you must’ve heard about the classic 5 stages which end with the last stage being acceptance. While drafting this article, I questioned how simplistic this view of grief has been illustrated as and how the road to acceptance can rarely be categorized as stages that are linear. Grief is messy and ugly, without any timelines on when it may finally feel less painful. During this pandemic, the cumulative grief that people have withheld is so vast that almost each individual is familiar with the feeling of loss. Whether it’s the loss of identity, occupation, livelihood, health and the worst, your loved ones, this pandemic certainly took something integral away from each and every one of us.
In a recent study, it has been concluded that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its direct and collateral damage, depression in the US has risen by a factor of 3. It has been noted that among individuals ages 18–35, 43% of surveyed adults have found themselves ‘highly lonely’ due to the restrictive and socially distanced lifestyle that the pandemic brought on the world. What this really makes me wonder is that, although now working towards a new phase post-COVID-19, we certainly have a lot of long-term mental health effects of the coronavirus that we need to cater to. This begins with shedding light on one of the most prevalent ones: Grief and Loss.
WHY AND WHAT DO WE GRIEVE?
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” — Leo Tolstoy
Love is one of the strongest and human emotions one can feel. This love is not of only one kind; it can be for a person, for an experience, for an occupation, for a phase or even role in your life. When we lose anything that we once loved so greatly, we feel a hollow sense of emptiness and in essence a sudden loss of purpose too. As humans, we try to avoid thinking of all circumstances that could result in hurt or pain, therefore we are completely unprepared for such losses. And honestly, there is no preparation for loss; you can’t quantify how much something means to you until it has completely left your life. This loss translates into grief.
Grief has many textbook literal definitions but the one that I like the most is this: ‘Grief is really just love. All the love you have that has no place to go’. We grieve the loss of a part of our life because we can’t feel that emotion or experience in the same way again. We miss it and we want to experience it the way we used to again. This sometimes awakens other emotions of remorse and guilt for not having done enough to celebrate at the time. But ultimately, it is still just grief. Sometimes it’s not the tangible or physical loss that we crave, sometimes it’s the fear that with enough time, we might not recollect as much as we want to, once nature takes its course; for time does not heal all wounds but does make the scars fade away.
GROWING THROUGH GRIEF
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
One would hope to see some light at the end of the tunnel when we talk about dealing with loss. It’s not to say that light doesn’t exist in the process of grieving, but this light tends to be one which is flickering and unreliable. Grief is not a condition that you remain in or leave entirely. It is something you grow with and potentially discover many tumultuous meanings of life through, as well. Grief does not have a clear beginning or a definitive end to it. Sometimes your loss can be replaced with positive things but the grief still remains. And that’s okay. Our loss is as unique as our individual self and so is our grieving process. Like other mental health issues, we can never assume how one is processing their individual battle. For some people, grief is messy and an emotional whirlwind, but for some it looks like a highly productive, socially active life with a seemingly ‘happy’ demeanor.
You learn a lot about savoring life and becoming a grounded person once you come to terms with your loss. It’s never an easy process but you certainly grow with it. It teaches you something that no one can possibly ever, and equips you with the understanding of impermanence; a concept needed for life. For where there is love and desire, there will always be room for grief and disappointment.
Resources: John Drake, The Psychological Trauma Of Covid-19, Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johndrake/2021/01/05/the-psychological-trauma-of-covid-19/?sh=88f57ea59504) Essentials on Surviving, Coping and Healing- Raymee Grief Center.