The 'Right' Way to Grieve
Photographed by Devin Ricks of Elxavier Caldwell
By Allison Miller
Spoiling the rest of this article for you: there is no right way to grieve. The “correct” way to grieve is up to interpretation and is specific to every person reading this. What works for you may not work for your best friend. Or it may work perfectly; there is no rule book or unfailing step-by-step process on how to grieve. Yet, I find myself, and many others, trying desperately to streamline and speed up the grieving process.
We lost a family member, but we have final exams to take. We lost a beloved friend, but we have work on Monday. We lost a great treasure of a human, but other people have lost so much more. We are hurting inside and out and feel like there is no escape from the grief and anguish pulling us downward. But these feelings can be shoved to the side while I get on with my life, I would know.
In no way am I trying to say that the best way to grieve is to wallow for days on end. That would be counterproductive, would it not? I am trying to tell you that the one piece of advice I will always give to someone in mourning is to embrace your emotions. What you choose to do from there is up to you, but the real healing gets done when we start being honest with ourselves about our needs, especially during such a vulnerable time. Attempting to shove our feelings into a little box to be set aside and dealt with later is an approach I see so many people try, including myself.
The experience of watching someone suffer through their life, just for it to be taken from them, far before what I believed was their time, felt like my heart was being ripped out and laid in front of me. Broken, beaten, and forever changed. I was convinced that relief for myself and my family was not possible. My close family members were so devastated that they could hardly hold up the weight of their own emotions, so I put everything I had into helping them. I shed minimal tears while being a shoulder to cry on and a pair of arms to fall into.
Some people may benefit from supporting those around them. However, remember how I mentioned “real healing” earlier? In my own life, this healing gets done when I sit by myself on the floor of my bedroom and cry my eyes out, wondering why these horrible things have happened. I plead and beg, the way the five stages of grief tell me I should.
The five stages of grief have never claimed to be linear. Yet, this is one of the most common benchmarks used by individuals to attempt to measure their grief or assign meaning to their emotions. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are a decent foundation. Nevertheless, when our grief does not follow this pattern, we should not feel as though it is wrong or invalid.
In a person’s life, the feelings of grief may resurface months after the situation, even if they believe they have healed fully. A person may also feel fully healed after only a few days. Both instances may have feelings of shame attached to them from interior or exterior sources. As aforementioned, the person next to you may grieve completely differently than you. There is no reason to judge others, or yourself, for healing through a process that is different from one's own.
Grief is one of the hardest processes of our lives, but it is not a shameful or uncommon collection of feelings. There is no correct way to grieve, nor is there a timeline for one’s grief. The five stages of grief are a great resource to look to if you are unsure what terms to assign to your emotions. However, they are not always in order, it is okay if your grief does not look like this. When experiencing the grieving process, the most important things to remember are to; assign words to emotions, when possible, listen to your body and mind regarding what they need and stop looking to others to create a blueprint for your own grief.