What is grief?
This question comprised of three small words is a multifaceted response to loss that can largely affect our cognitive, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social health. According to clinical psychologists, grief is a natural process of life's interchangeable progression of life. However, the emotional pain and suffering can become unrecognizable by close friends and family - and even ourselves. Since the experience of grief varies from person to person, how we handle catostrophic events is really dependent on our mental health and body stamina. Whether you have experienced a recent death, entered a new stage in your life, or ended a relationship, the important concept to remember is that the grieving process is temporary and eventually, we will emerge from the ashes stronger than ever before.
1. The Loss of a Person We Once Knew
Whether it's losing your best friend or a close family member, sometimes the people we love can change in significant ways. When our lives revolve around someone, their nonexistence in our social orbit can create an emotional imbalance, which causes us to keep some memories that continue to linger on with each passing day. The collision can wreck us, change us, and shift us. For example, I "lost" one of my best friends from high school based on a terrible rumor five years ago. The outward appearance showed two friends who were inseparable and truly complimented one another's personality; however, behind closed doors, the relationship was destructive and manipulated to the point that I became a different person that was unrecognizable in the mirror.
Since my best friend and I continued on different paths, every time I come across a picture of us or watch one of our favorite movies, those precious memories continue to infiltrate my mind. Those precious memories created a cognitive footprint and I know it will take a tremendous amount of strength and courage to emotionally move on from that destructive friendship. Regardless, friends and family will inevitably become present and un-present in our lives, which causes us to mourn the loss of a person we once knew that made a positive or negative life-long impact on each of our lives.
2. The Loss of a Identity We Haven't Lost Yet
According to clinical psychologists, anticipatory grief is a term that refers to the grief felt about someone with a life-limiting illness; friends, family and caregivers often experience it in anticipation of an eventual death. There are only two instances where I experienced anticipatory grief: the loss of my Nana and getting married to my husband. Although these emotional events vary slightly in circumstances, both of these losses are significant in terms of my emotional, behavioral, and cognitive health. All of my plans, thoughts, and the sense of my future — even my sense of safety and security—are now challenged. I absolutely love my husband, but the presumption of our future and "leaving and cleaving from my family" becomes distorted and the unimaginable infiltrated my mind. When we emotionally have to prepare ourselves for a significant loss, it can create a loss of our personal identity.
3. The Loss of a Person We Used to Be
Whether it's waiting for the school bus to pick you up for school or moving into your new house, the evolution of time can drastically change your life. Throughout life, you will overcome some changes in small strides, but the long strides can affect you deeply. Consider getting married and moving into a new house. I may have anticipated this event for years and be overjoyed, but I realize the normality of life will never be the same again.
Over the next couple of weeks and/or months, my personal space and interaction with my immediate family will become limited. When I change my last name, that one contentious act will further solidify that I can never re-enter my previous life that is filled with unbinding love and comfort. My new life and last name will allow myself to re-enter a new phase in my life and create a new establishment with my husband. Each transition in our lives—no matter how positive—has an undercurrent. The thrill of passing a milestone in your live can mark both an accomplishment and maturity that promised new freedom and adventure.
Now, imagine the pain and grief when, through age or disability, you are forced to surrender your new profound freedom and all it has meant. While venturing into new chapters of your life can be exciting, it can create a loss of the person we used to be.