Candle flame
Opinion

What is grief?

There are many definitions of grief and almost everyone you meet will give you their own perspective. Those who have not yet experienced a significant loss will often describe the emotion using language that amplifies the description but does nothing to prepare you for the emotion.

For example, the official definition from Lexico.com says grief is:

Deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.

Sometimes people use the word intense instead of deep. Either way, the definition is lacklustre in describing what it actually feels like to grieve.

This is where metaphors come in. Being able to describe grief by relating the concept to another more familiar scenario might provide more understanding to those who simply don’t understand.

In this way, others have likened grief to a physical weight that must be carried, a barrier that you can’t pass through, or losing a limb. Personally, none of these descriptors adequately describe my grief.

Instead, here is how I see grief:

Grief isn’t something to heal from.

Grief is a wound that will never close. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bit of scar tissue to smooth the edges and maybe you’ll get a scab over the top, but it’s not something that will ever heal completely.

What you get instead is something that you have to learn to live with. That you have to carry with you. You adapt and change your life to move around the edge and don’t accidentally knock it or scratch it.

You live slightly in a different direction. A slight course of adjustment from what you expected your life to be because you can no longer go over the wound without creating pain, so you have to go around it.

Before I’d lost my husband, I always thought grief was something that you would get over. Grief was a pain that you would carry with you and as time went on, it would be less.

But that’s not true. It’s not less. You just learn better strategies for living with it. You learn to live with it. You learn to live again in a way that’s different to what you’d expected, but it’s still there. The pain is still there. The grief is still there. You just get better at carrying it.

Every one of us will define grief in our own terms and every one of us will be correct. How I view my grief is based on how I experience my grief. Your experience will most likely be different. It’s not wrong. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re doing it wrong. You’re not.

Take a moment to define your grief. Only when you truly understand what you are feeling will you be able to find ways to manage your emotions.

How would you define grief? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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