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How are you?

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Grief. A single word with so much meaning. The Mayo Clinic offers this definition of grief ( 10/19/2016): A natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Depending on the day and a whole host of influencers, grief varies and changes, it ebbs and flows. These influencers make grief a personal experience.

We have to give ourselves grace and remember that what we are experiencing is natural. Because we chose to love, we unknowingly chose to eventually grieve. Even though every human, every society, every people group, every nation, experience grief, we each one experience it in our own unique way.

Our unique experience is influenced by circumstances. Two important circumstances are 1) the relationship we have with the person who died and 2) the way the death was experienced. Other circumstances that influence grief are more environmental in nature. For example, our sleep and diet influence our grief. Trying to get good sleep while grieving, while it is difficult, is very important. Naps are a great form of self-care. Nourishing foods fuel our bodies in order for them to function properly, where as poor dietary choices deplete our systems and rob us of vital energy that is needed to sustain us. Think about the breath. Long deep breaths bathe our cells in oxygen. Short breaths from the chest tend to diminish the amount of oxygen our bodies get. We need to be aware of how we are breathing so we give our cells all the oxygen they need. Other circumstances that influence our grief include weather, people, our schedules and our physical exercise. All these things play a part in how we process grief.

If we go back to the definition of grief, we see that grief is a natural reaction. That natural reaction is packed with an emotional punch. To someone that has not experienced the death of a significant person in their life, grief may indeed be “a natural reaction to loss”. But to someone who has experienced death at a personal level, that “natural reaction to loss” becomes a visceral, gut wrenching, life altering, fear inducing, tumultuous chaotic catalyst to depths deeper than one knew even existed. Grief becomes bigger and fiercer than a natural reaction. Yes, grief is a natural reaction, albeit a crushing one. We need more words to describe it.

Depending on the circumstances, the relationship and the manner of death, we might use words like panicked, stunned, enraged, worried, surprised, proud, focused, inspired, disgusted, lonely, spent, miserable, calm, grateful, thoughtful, or serene. All of these words narrow down that broad concept of a “natural reaction to loss” and give our grief depth. While these words are all natural and any combination can be used to describe our grief, we get a better grasp on what we are feeling. Feelings are what we use to give our experiences meaning. When we can give our feeling a name, we will be better equipped to process it. By giving grief a name that is rich with meaning our grief becomes validated as something more profound rather than a mere natural reaction. While it is still natural, the depth at which grief is felt and understood becomes more apparent.

The first two circumstances that influence our grief, relationship and manner of death, are unchangeable, but the other circumstances that influence our grief change frequently. What one word would you use to express your feeling right now? Did you feel the exact same feeling yesterday? We can say, “I feel sad”. However, if we get more specific, we realize that today we feel despondent and yesterday we felt lonely. Despondent means low in spirit from loss of hope and lonely means sad because one has no companion or company, two entirely different feelings that are often seen as “sad”.

Being able to put specific names to our feelings enable us to discern whether we want assistance, whether we need someone to sit with us in silence or whether we need to get physical and burn off some stress. By doing this we become empowered to know what practice of self- care will serve us in the moment. We can confidently answer the question “How are you doing today?”.


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