The Power of Grieving With Those Who Grieve

The Power of Grieving With Those Who Grieve

What Is Grief? 

Simply put, grief is a great sadness.

Grief is a powerful emotion present when something important is lost or damaged.

In my counseling work with clients of all kinds, grief always enters the conversation at some point. Whether it is very raw grief from the death of a loved one, grief over painful experiences or trauma, or grief about a broken relationship.

Yet, grief is often overlooked or inaccurately named. Grief is often masked as many other things in our nervous system. Grief might be felt as anger, depression, or bitterness. Maybe grief is overshadowed by self-shame, insecurity, and defense mechanisms.

Feeling this great sadness is, sometimes, too much for us. As we become comfortable and familiar in our emotional spectrum, feeling our grief allows us to honor the value of what was lost and to experience a kind of calm that comes from releasing.

So, how do we let ourselves feel the great sadness and truly grieve when we need to? Maybe an illustration would be helpful to answer this question.

An Illustration of Grief

I’m visualizing a mother, stooping low to her child’s eye level, inspecting their fresh “boo boo”. The mother’s expression is a mirror image of their child’s expression: furrowed brow, frown, sad, pained, frustrated, afraid. She’s telling her child she’s so sorry they got hurt, wincing with them as they cry out in pain, and tenderly kissing their wound. The mother does not dismiss the child’s pain, nor does she ignore that this pain is real for the child. She joins the child, enters their emotional world, and provides a safe place for the child to feel their pain and sadness.

I, then, imagine what happens for the child inside. How comforted they must feel, knowing their parent understands and cares for their pain. I imagine the safety they must feel in that moment, knowing someone is ready to swoop in and tend to their wound. How affirming of their pain, their story, and their value!

Grieve With Others

As we get older, we may lose the ability to grieve the pain of others. As pain becomes more internal, emotional, and complex, we struggle to connect with what we don’t understand or relate to. We struggle to make sense of and truly grieve with the psychological pain others are feeling.

Maybe their grief is too much or too scary. Maybe our own pain is too unresolved to share in the pain of others. Maybe we just don’t have the tools yet.

If we did not have our painful experiences validated and reflected appropriately in our own childhood, this becomes even more of a challenge, as we were not equipped with the tools we needed. Some of us are walking around, screaming inside at the world, “Don’t you see me?! Don’t you know I am an inherently important and divine human? Please help me get this pain seen!” 

Gaining these tools, often, comes from deep exploration of childhood and entering into safe relationships (whether that is with a spouse, a friend, or a therapist) that can handle our big emotions.

Just as vital as grieving with others is the ability to grieve our own pain. Are you able to receive this kind of compassion toward yourself? To be with your own pain and accept the gentle care it requires?

We have the chance to be like our God, as we give witness and tend to the grief of others. We can look to Him as our model, the ultimate Counselor, a Comforter, a Refuge, who never shies away from our pain. He is Emmanuel, God With Us. So, too, do we get to be with others in their hardest moments.

Right now you have an opportunity to grieve with someone, and by doing so, affirming their story and worthiness (even if that someone, first, is you).

 

By: Rebecca Parks, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Cristy Ragland, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S

 

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