Read time: 6 minutes
- Grief comes in many forms, each one real and valid.
- When we try to bypass our grief, we create further suffering for ourselves.
- Through mourning, we can sufficiently tend to our grief and learn to live again.
Mourning Through Times of Grief
Grief comes in many forms. It’s much like the weather: surprising, changing, turbulent, and unpredictable. It follows no patterns, no logic, and no rules. And only you can be the expert in your grief, for grief is different person to person and case by case.
Grief, in all its shapes and sizes, can be summed up as intense sorrow brought on by a death not always in human form, but also a loss that is more inanimate. Throughout life, we carry all these large (and small) griefs around with us. Grief for those we've lost, grief of dreams that haven't come true (and those we realize may never), the grief of missing how things used to be, the grief of endings, the grief of accepting our lives and paths are different from how we thought they would be or how we think they "should" be, grief for pets, grief for relationship changes or endings, or the grief of personal identity shifts.
In our world of diabetes and chronic condition management, there are even more griefs to consider. There is grief upon initial diagnosis, grieving for the life you once had, grieving health goals that may no longer be attainable, or grief from burnout, confusion, and frustration that can rear its head at any time while living with diabetes.
You may also experience those aforementioned instances of grief while simultaneously going through bouts of grief caused by diabetes.
All of these griefs are meaningful. They are real, consequential, and valid, regardless of how big or small one specific grief may seemingly be. Going through grief takes time, energy, and understanding. But it is absolutely essential to go through—and not bypass—your grief in order to alleviate the pain that comes with that loss.
The Antidote to Suffering
We often wonder why grief hurts so much.
The pain of grief is proportionate to the love or attachment we feel for the person, object, or concept that was lost. Love—or attachment—is only as powerful and equal to its pain equivalent. No one knows the depths of our grief but us, in the same way that no one can fully comprehend the wholeness of our love except for us.
It’s those depths of appreciation, love, and attachment (that we may have to a job, a friend, or a dream) that can cause such cataclysmic waves of grief, each with their own timelines and ways of expression.
These griefs are perfectly reasonable; without them, we wouldn’t know a life of dreams, hopes, desires, or passions.
However, even with this logic and reason, we often feel guilt for our grief because we compare our suffering to others and believe our own pales in comparison. We don’t give ourselves the time needed to process a particular grief; we don’t give ourselves permission to mourn.
As a whole, our modern western society is not good at processing grief or the pain that accompanies it. We don’t talk about it; often, we choose to actively avoid it. While every life is full of various pain points, many of us are never taught how to adequately acknowledge or experience pain, which can lead to chronic suffering.
A common response is to resist the grief—to suppress the pain, deny our needs, or reject authentic responses to what is happening. Instead, we apply harsh judgments, like “I shouldn’t be feeling this way,” or “This is not normal behavior given my circumstance.”
Judging ourselves this way and resisting the true emotive grief response only makes the pain that much bigger and stronger, keeping us stuck in despair, anger, shame, and suffering. But there is an antidote for this suffering: mourning.
Permission to Mourn
All losses need to be grieved and witnessed, no matter how small or insubstantial we may perceive them to be. This witnessing comes through the practice of mourning.
Grief is the innermost feeling of despair and pain brought on by a loss; it holds the complex constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we experience in any given loss. Mourning is the outward, active expression of those emotions, the visible (or invisible) and usually physical communication of that internal torment. In other words, mourning is grief in action.
There is no singular way to mourn. One person may mourn in a raw and vulnerable way, while another simply wants to sit in numbness. Some are expressive in their mourning, while others may express their grief more quietly. We can mistakenly think that people who show no visible signs of pain are not mourning their loss correctly. But if that is not their style in life—to express, to open up, to actively engage in feeling—it won’t be in mourning either. Each person must experience loss in their own way; suggesting otherwise is not helpful.
There is no right way to mourn. Talking openly about the loss, crying, wailing, flailing, using art or music to express feeling, journaling, praying, celebrating what was, and folding inward through silence are all different and equally true ways of mourning.
Regardless of one’s mourning practice, it is imperative that a loss be acknowledged and mourned in whatever capacity that looks like on an individual level. Making the choice to not just grieve but authentically mourn provides one with courage and confidence to integrate loss into life. Without integrating or acknowledging, the loss boils over into an all-consuming pain. Through mourning, though, you can allow the pain to run its course and no longer spend energy fighting its existence. Doing so can allow us to move through the pain, so that it no longer controls us.
From this place of mourning, we are able to accept reality for what it is, especially when our reality is one that we so desperately want not to be true. Mourning—in our distinctly individual way and pattern—opens up a path towards acceptance; it’s through acceptance that we can begin to find peace.
Your Grief in Action
Some mourn with darkness, others with light. Some mourn with both, depending on where they are in their grief cycle. There is no one way to mourn that is any better or more correct than the other.
To continue on with life and living well, it is essential to mourn well. Mourning well is simply honestly and openly expressing your emotions in such a way that feels authentic to you. If you feel that curling up in a ball and rocking back and forth will help you in your mourning process, it will; if you feel that singing loudly with a group of friends will help you authentically practice mourning, it will.
Authentic mourning is being consciously aware of the painful emotions of grief and feeling safe to express them in whatever mode works best for you. Yet choosing to experience and express grief to its fullest can be difficult in our mourning-avoidant culture. But if you do make the choice to authentically mourn in the ways that are unique to your being, you can begin to see a bigger picture beyond the immediate challenge. Genuinely mourning allows us to feel the grief in all of its aspects, perspectives, and intensities, which can ultimately lead to a natural transformation of that grief.
In your time of fear and despair, remember to embrace your messy mix of feelings, contain your multitudes, hold sufficient space for your grievances, and authentically mourn your loss. Doing so can help to release the shackles of pain. Look into certain grief resources, like Grief Share’s support groups, the GoodGrief social support app, or an extensive resources library from grief support communities like What’s Your Grief.
While walking hand in hand with your grief, remember there is no timeline; mourning is typically complicated, untidy, and ongoing. Your mourning practice is unique to you. Allow it all the time it needs.