You need to grieve right now and this is why

When we hear the word “grief” we traditionally associate it with death. Grief, however, comes in many different forms and strikes for many different reasons — some of which might be experiencing in the current crisis. While grieving the loss of a loved one is serious and life-shattering, there are many other major life events that can elicit a similar response from us and our emotions. Losing opportunities, losing our place in an important community or career — theses are all things that can cause us to grieve in unexpected ways.

Learning how to deal with our grief starts with understanding it and the ways in which it undermines our ultimate happiness. Only by facing the deep sadness and sense of loss we harbor in our hearts can we overcome that loss and find our way back to a fulfilled reality. It takes time, though, and it takes a willingness to accept yourself — the good, the bad and the ugly — in order to find a new way forward into the future you’re trying to build.

The real nature of grief.

Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss or change of any kind. It is not pathological and it is not a personality defect. It does not occur only when we lose a spouse, a child or a parent and it most definitely does not make us weak or less worthy for experiencing it. We experience grief whenever we lose anything important to us — and in these uncertain times, many of us might feel as though we are losing more than ever before.

You should think of your grief as a natural response whose purpose is to lead you to healing. Without grief, we would not be able to appreciate the beauty in our lives and without grief we would not be able to learn the lessons that help us to grow. When we experience grief, we experience an opportunity to see things in a new and powerful life.

Grief is a double-edged sword in its simplest state, but a powerful tool to those who know how to wield it. The trick, though, is understanding grief and knowing when a setback in your life is causing more of a disturbance than you realize. When we accept our grief for what it is and learn how to weather the storm, we find a whole new reserve of strength that we didn’t even realize existed.

The types of grief you might be battling right now.

Though we think of grief as being most intimately associated with death, it can also come as a result of an array of experiences that challenge us and the way we see ourselves in the world. You don’t have to lose a parent or a spouse to feel grief. There are all kinds of events that trigger our sorrow and most of them fall between 4 main categories.

Loss of identity or role affiliation

When we lose a core piece of our identity, it can cause us to fall into mourning for our lost sense of self. Those who lose out on who they are (through firing or any other kind of social severance) are given the monumental task of not only grieving who they thought they were, but also setting up a new story for themselves in one fell swoop.

Examples of this type of loss include:

  • You lose a job or are furloughed from your current career.
  • You are forced to walk away from a community or religious group.
  • Suffer the breakdown of a longterm relationship.
  • Separated from your children for the first time (“empty nest”).

Some of these individuals make the choice to leave their religious community or their career. Though this might sound easier, it can actually compound the grief even further. Because the individual made the choice to end that stage of their life, they can often feel as though they don’t have a “right” to grieve or feel a sense of loss.

Shattered dreams and aspirations

Losing opportunities or experiences that are important to us can be heart-shattering. Maybe there was a specific company you hoped to work for, or just a job you hoped to hold on to. Many of us are dealing with an array of shattered hopes and dreams right now, in the form of disappointed vacation plans, wedding dreams and even career goals. It’s okay to mourn those things, and it’s okay to experience feelings of grief or even injustice.

Examples of this type of loss include:

  • Someone on a specific career arch is terminated.
  • An over-achiever finds themselves unable to secure their desired place in the “real world”.
  • Living in a community with sudden dramatic political shifts.
  • A couple struggling with infertility.

Those who struggle with the loss of their hopes struggle to make their way in the world because their sense of failure compounds with their grief to create an impermeable sense of hopelessness. They can often find themselves making unfair comparisons and comparing their process to the process of others (somehow always finding themselves falling short.)

Losing control over life

Losing your personal autonomy is a type of grief that can cut you to the core. We all have a need to manage our own lives and when we lose that, it can trigger a very real and very permeating sense of grief. Feeling as though you are leading a life that is now out of your control is a very unique experience, and one that feels very like a death of the old self.

Examples of this type of loss include:

  • Someone who has experiences prolonged financial setbacks.
  • Those who suffer from degenerative illnesses.
  • Elderly or aging family members that can no longer care for themselves.

Being unable to control our own lives causes us to lose touch with who we are at our most basic and intimate level. It’s one of the hardest forms of grief to face and overcome. This is because a loss of autonomy results in not only a sense of failure and despair, but it also requires the afflicted to reconceptualize who they are while they face their new limitations.

Losing hold of your wellbeing

On a very primitive level, we expect to feel safe in our homes, our communities and our relationships. When we lose that sense of safety, it can have some serious consequences for our sense of self as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. It can also result in a sense of hyper-vigilance that causes the person to feel distinctly unsafe no matter what.

Examples of this type of loss include:

  • Survivors of physical, sexual or emotional trauma.
  • A partner who has just learned their loved one is having an affair.
  • Families experiencing eviction or housing instability.
  • Children of divorce who lose the sense of safety they had in their “intact” family.
  • Communities that encountered regular violence and destabilization.

Many of those dealing with this type of grief also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which causes an array of other issues aside from the regular feelings of hyper-vigilance and numbness. Those who survive trauma and violence often lose their sense of internal safety and it becomes difficult for them to restore it. Alongside dealing with their own feelings of constant insecurity, they are also tasked with grieving this loss while struggling to rebuild their lives.

How grief impacts the way we live.

Because we often don’t fully understand our grief and its complex layers, we sometimes overlook the depth of those emotions, which can lead to a stalling or breakdown in the grieving process. Grief occurs naturally in stages, but those stages can commonly be interrupted or sidetracked, creating some severe emotional consequences for the sufferer. Some of the most common signs of unresolved grief are…