Whenever we have a major loss in life, it causes us grief. This could be from the death of a loved one, leaving a job, divorce, etc. Sometimes the loss is expected, while other times it comes as a complete shock. No matter what form of loss you’ve experienced, it causes grief. Today let’s talk about suffering the pain of grief, and answer the question that most have: Does it last a lifetime?
What is grief?
Grief consists of despair, anguish, loneliness, sorrow, deep sadness, rage, abandonment, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, fear, and many other emotions.
I often liken grief to an ocean of emotions. There are times when the seas are calm and smooth, and we’re able to carry on about our days with clear sailing and blue skies. And then there are the days where the skies are stormy, causing choppy waters and tidal waves of grief to rise. We feel like we could easily drown in the swell that washes over us.
I teach that grief comes in three stages:
- Raw: In this stage, you feel like grief has blotted out the tapestry of your life. You feel like you have no skin. You are raw. You wonder if you are going crazy.
- Fragile: This is where you are barely holding yourself together—where the daily pain and drain of grief is like a dragon draggin’ you around. I define Fragile Grief as sadness, anger, and loneliness that may last for months, years or even the rest of your life, if you do not go down into the vortex of grief, feel where grief lives in your body, lean into it, and learn from it.
- Mindful: This stage is where you lean into the emotions you’re feeling. For example, if you feel resentment that the world continues on while you’re falling apart, you fully examine this emotion both in your mind and body, and allow them to be released.
What is the pain from grief, and what causes it?
The pain from grief comes from the plethora of emotions that grief encompasses. There are two types of pain that we often experience with grief:
- Emotional: This is where you experience anger, anxiety, hopelessness, separation, abandonment, shame, etc. I’ve heard it expressed as a ‘soul on fire’.
- Physical: I often remind people that grief lives in the body. Physical pain from grief can be a weight on the shoulders, an aching in the chest, joint pain, and a host of other maladies.
There are a multitude of studies that explain the biological reasons for grieving, such as our survival instincts that rely on attachments for safety, the human need for habits and routines, and many more.
But for healing purposes, let’s focus on the cause of our pain being a significant shift in our lives—the very event that causes us to feel grief. I’ve had people say, “I don’t know why I can’t stop crying”, to which I reply with a reminder that they’ve lost a loved one, been through a divorce, had to move, or lost a job. It’s natural and normal to mourn the loss—or, in other words, to experience the pain that comes from grieving.
How long does the pain from grief last?
Earlier, I talked about the three basic states of grief: Raw, Fragile, and Mindful. This is significant because the waves of pain from grief vary in intensity and length, depending on where you are in your healing journey.
If you’re in Raw Grief, the intensity can feel at a fever pitch. Wailing, screaming, lashing out—these are all common, and are a physical manifestation of our emotions. A great metaphor of this can be likening grief to a very loud noise, constantly loud and overwhelming.
In Fragile Grief, the intensity is dialed down but we still feel the weight of our emotions. The physical manifestations can be more weighty. Using the noise metaphor, we could say that in this stage the loud noise has quieted, but it’s constant and loud enough to always be distracting and maintain our attention.
In Mindful Grief, the noise is now in the background. We can hear it, but unless someone turns up the volume (e.g. we are triggered by a smell, sound, location, etc.), it’s manageable. Think about it as the hum of the fridge; sometimes you can hear it clearly, but most of the time it is just part of our everyday lives.
You will always cherish your loved one, but you don’t have to stay in Raw or Fragile grief.
I have several resources on the site, such as this Free Resource page, and this Navigating the Ocean of Emotion Audio Program. The goal of Integrated Wellbeing Institute is to help you move into Radiant Living, and I hope these resources will help you do just that!
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...
I want to share a free gift with you that can help you recognize the physical, cognitive and emotional reactions you may be experiencing. You’ll also take away prompts to use daily along your journey.
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