Don’t Move On Yet: Why Processing Grief is Essential

It seems pretty simple: you lose something or someone and you grieve the loss of that. But why is that process so difficult for so many people? What makes us want to completely avoid it in any way we can?

Sitting with difficult feelings like sadness, loss and despair can be tough. It may feel overwhelming and inescapable to some. But the reality is that grieving is a necessary, temporary and vital part of our psyches as human beings. We are programmed to grieve, to express our feelings after a loss and that is something unavoidable.

Grieving is a natural process we go through when we have a loss in our lives. This loss does not necessarily mean a death, although that is the most common association of grief. It can also be the loss of a significant relationship, the loss of something that was anticipated, a move to a different community, a significant change in health, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a pet, etc.

Some common feelings/behaviors associated with the grief process are:

  • Intense sadness
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Change in sleep
  • Change in appetite
  • Guilt
  • Apathy
  • Loss of life meaning
  • Withdrawal from others/loneliness

And most people are aware of the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The important thing to remember here is that the stages are not linear and can vary in length of time.

Since grieving varies in length in different people, having patience and compassion for yourself while you are experiencing it is extremely important. Otherwise, many people push themselves to end the process prematurely. They begin to have thoughts such as:

“I should really be over this”

“Why am I making this a bigger deal than it is?”

“If I start to really grieve then I won’t know how to stop so it’s just better that I move on”

“I need to get it together and get over this ASAP”.

You will know when you are prematurely pushing yourself out of grief with these types of thoughts as well as a sense of urgency to move forward (versus a natural progression to move forward). What you are risking by doing this is a higher likelihood of unresolved grief and the negative feelings associated with grief “leaking out” into other areas of your life. Every loss you experience afterwards will trigger the unresolved feelings associated with the initial lack of grieving again and again and again. You may also become triggered later in ways you may not think is related to the original loss.

The natural grief process, however, comes to a gradual end and it feels complete. You begin to have more “good” feelings and your energy levels return. There is a sense of satisfaction you receive from completing the toughest part of the journey. Some people gain a deeper sense of wisdom, connection to religion or spiritual beliefs and gratefulness for other areas of their life. You eventually gain some peace with the loss. Not to say that the loss is still not a part of you, or that the wish that it never happened is gone, but you may have a sense of acceptance about the loss.

Allowing yourself the time and space to grieve properly also takes a commitment to stand up for yourself and what you know to be healthiest process for you. Often times, society, friends and family knowingly or unknowingly begin to encourage you to “moving forward”. This is done in any number of subtle and more obvious ways but the end message is always “OK it’s time”. Although it often comes with the best of intentions, it truly undermines what an individual process grief is and can lead to a premature end to grieving.

Loss and grief are some of the most difficult feelings humans face. Depending on the type of loss, the feelings can often feel quite intense. But it is a necessary part of our existence. Here are some helpful ways to help the process:

  • Creating a grief journal to write down and process thoughts and feelings (without a filter)
  • Engaging in art or poetry writing
  • Joining a grief/loss group
  • Talking to supportive friends and family
  • EMDR therapy to address unresolved grief
  • Engaging in an act that honors the memory of the person/animal

However you grieve, just know that it is important and a vital part of healing. Take the time you need and sit with the feelings that come, knowing that eventually it will pass.

Need more information? Feel free to contact me or ask me your questions! You can also share this with someone who might need it or leave a comment below.