Mental Health

The Intricacies of Large-Scale Grief

Stress and OCD | Libero Magazine 2
If you try to push grief away or get over it, you’re doing a disservice to yourself. Allow, allow, allow. Allow the pain, the sorrow, and the process and then allow the good things too.

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It can be difficult to cope with large-scale crises that are out of our control.

Natural disasters, for example, shake up communities, states, or even whole countries. Sometimes disasters like these can lead to deaths in our lives. Other times, death comes to us for reasons unrelated to nature, and we are still left reeling.

It’s vital that we learn to gain perspective, channel hope, and maintain a sense of living fully — even in the face of such loss.

It’s so easy to turn such devastation inward.

It serves as a way to isolate ourselves, which can be quite unhealthy, and only succeeds in making us feel more alone. One of the ways we can stop isolating is to validate our own experiences.

People tend to think: this person has it so much worse than I have it, so therefore I have no right to feel the way I feel.


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But here’s the thing — everyone in this world is an individual dealing with individual experiences.

We all have different people around us, different environments, different circumstances, different skill sets and tools, as well as different intellects, strengths and gifts.

Therefore, we will all deal with tragedy in different ways. It’s important to avoid comparisons.

For one person, losing a best friend because she moved far away can be every bit as devastating as another person losing her whole family in a flood.

While we as a society do tend to say that one loss is greater than the other, the sense of grief is more the same than different, because it’s very real and very painful for those involved.

I’m sure you’ve heard about people who have had tragic losses — losing everything in a fire, for instance — and some of these people say, inspiringly, “I have a lot to be thankful for and I can still enjoy life.” Yet someone else can get a bad grade on an important assignment and become devastated, perhaps feeling every bit as sad as someone who lost everything in a fire.

We all have unique perspectives and our emotions surface in different ways, for different reasons, in different intensities.

It’s really about respect. We have to respect other people and we have to respect ourselves.

We all come to the table with different outlooks and it’s part of what makes the world beautiful.

With a natural disaster like a flood or a hurricane, people may lose power or endure loss of a home or possessions. Sometimes, there is loss of life. These kinds of disasters alter the whole course of existence.

Someone who had the roof fly off a home or had a tree land on a house is dealing with an overwhelming experience, especially if the person has a job, a family, or financial burdens. It takes a while to fix something like a destroyed home. Such a loss is difficult, even if they did not lose a loved one during the natural disaster. It does not make them less deserving of the grieving process.

Everyone has the right to grieve.

And everyone has the right to grieve in his or her own way.

We really want to steer away from saying, “my loss is greater than your loss,” or “my life is worse than your life right now.” There is no real point to one-upping people, or the opposite, berating yourself because you feel as though someone has it so much worse than you do. If you need to grieve something, you have every right to do so. You’ll be healthier for it.

It’s difficult to deal with loss of any kind, so when we’re talking about the loss of human life, it’s hard not to feel alone. Grief can feel very lonely. The only way out is through … and sometimes it takes a while. Essentially, we may never stop grieving the loss of a loved one.

The goal is not to stop grieving. The goal is to heal from the loss.

You can heal from a loss and still grieve. It’s normal and natural to miss someone who is gone, no matter how much time has passed, because it means he or she was a precious and important part of your life.

Your grief should not stop you from living the life you want for yourself.

Reconciliation is the (sometimes long) process of becoming more and more accustomed to a new life. It is an adaptation. Part of reconciliation in grief and mourning is processing the reality of death in outside, outward ways. Another part of reconciliation is allowing all the horrible, sad, painful feelings of grief and loss, but at the same time, allowing the understanding that life goes on.

Yet another part of reconciliation is altering the thinking about the person who is gone.

For me, for example, it means adapting to the fact that my husband is no longer physically here with me every day, and is instead a spiritual presence or a collection of loving memories. I can’t interact with him anymore. I can’t hold on to him. But he’s not gone from my thoughts and emotions.

Another part of reconciliation is developing a new life — maybe even a new role or identity — without the presence of the person who is gone. Then finding some kind of meaning in the death. And the last part of reconciliation is developing a support system, a network. People to help you through this whole messed up process of grief and loss.

Grief and loss create a whole crazy world of their own. They beat down the door of the regular world and then wreak havoc on everything. We can choose to clean up the debris, tidy up the chaos, and sort through the pieces that are left behind.

If you try to push grief away or get over it, you’re doing a disservice to yourself. Allow, allow, allow.

Allow the pain, the sorrow, and the process … and then allow the good things too.

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Arielle is an MSW, LSW, writer, and blogger. She is a Hospice Social Worker, widow, stepmomma, and wife. She has professional experience with eating disorders, domestic violence, grief and loss. She loves her work, her family, her cats, and her dog! She most often writes about grief, loss, end of life issues, and suicide. Gratitude fuels her every move.

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