Human happiness is very subjective and objective. It is objective in that ultimately, human happiness exists in a state of complete love that can never be taken away. In this ideal state of happiness, love is ever present and all desires and gains can never be stolen or taken. Of course, this type of happiness is in impossible in a fallen world. It is impossible to find love without the haunting thought of loss. Everything gained, can be taken back.
With this type of fear, objective true happiness can never exist in this fallen world but only parts of it here and there in the present. Yet, in this search, others turn to even less tenable forms of happiness that pend upon materialism, fame and success. These aspects are even more fragile than the objective search of love. Love, at least true love, exceeds human limits, albeit it can be taken in the temporal world, but material and social sources of happiness are even on more insecure ground. In themselves, they are not worthy of an end but only means to an end.
Hence, human beings look for happiness in many wrong places and find usually only fleeting moments in happiness, especially if “means” are designed as “ends”. Human beings will always face tragedy and loss but it is important to understand happiness cannot be found in this world in its complete sense. So it is extra crucial to place our values and love in only the most important people and ideals. Loss of anything, even the most valued, produces grief, but when value is over placed in only objects, then one opens oneself to greater grief over small things. This is why it is crucial to understand the importance of attachment to only the most valued ideals or people. Some would contend this is placing ultimate happiness in God or a form of life philosophy.
Due to human beings seeking happiness in every venue, people experience loss and grief in immaterial and material things. When these attachment, whether worthy of love or not, are taken from the individual, a sense of dread and grief is experienced. This type of dread and loss in the search of happiness can also manifest in things that are not tangible or connected to person, but can be losses associated with something that is not even in one’s possession. Ideas that surround the ideal of happiness in life can also haunt and cause discord and grief in a person. Unfulfilled dreams, lack of opportunities, poor life choices, and non touchable ideals that would grant happiness are not found.
The person hence possesses an nonfinite grief. A gnawing grief that chews upon the person’s existential quest of perfection and happiness.
The article, “Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss” by Litsa from “What’s Your Grief” explores the many facets of nonfinite grief. The article explores various schemas of how one wishes a particular life may have turned out and how this can cause discord and sadness in life. The article continues to look at how one can face infinite grief in life and attempt to find happiness in the life that exists. The article states, ”
“Nonfinite grief is the grief we feel when we lose these non-tangible things, watching our imagined future dissolve. In Nonfinite Loss and Grief, Bruce and Shultz define the grief that exists when life falls short of our expectations. They say that nonfinite losses are losses “contingent development; the passage of time; and on a lack of synchrony with hopes, wishes, ideals, and expectations”.
“Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss”. Litsa. October 16th, 2022. What’s Your Grief
To read the entire article, please click here
From what we understand then about nonfinite grief, it is not tangible in itself, but is something that exists within the deepest parts of our souls. It is a discontentment with how life or our trajectory of life has unfolded. Some may be unware of it, but it is an overall unhappiness sometimes with existence itself. Wishes, dreams, or what should have been start to play a central role in the life of the person. This can be a life of the road not taken but also of the road that one wishes would have been available. Individuals who have heavy crosses to bear, or wish to live a regular life due to an illness or a loved one with a disease. In some ways for those, this becomes similar to secondary losses of opportunity.
Learning to handle this general displeasure with life can be more for others. Some individuals may carry a different life view. It is not necessarily based upon how much money someone has or how many cars one owns. While for some, these material gains may be a measuring stick, for many, we see unhappy wealthy people and very happy poorer people. Hence it is based upon one’s own convictions and beliefs in what life means and should be. It is about the ability to cope and adjust. It is about possessing a world view philosophy or spirituality that guides one through the turbulent waters of life. Many individuals do not possess an anchor that holds them still in the sea of life and they fall victim to many false faces of happiness. They find regret and sadness in things and unfulfilled expectations.
Does this mean we should dismiss such general sadness? While it is important to find a life view that guides a person, it is equally important to help those who do not possess an anchor in life. Those with anchors can suffer enough, but those without, can find themselves in far more restless situations of unhappiness.
First, it is important never to dismiss any type of negative emotion. Why someone is unhappy needs to be addressed and validated. “Whats Your Grief” discusses that many schemas in life do not turn out how one wanted one’s life to turn out. For example, someone who always envisioned a family and children, who never married or had children can live an empty life. Others who envision a successful career but are struggling due to the market may also find displeasure with life. So, the life or road not travelled can become a painful reminder about the current life itself.
It is OK to mourn the life you do not have. It is OK to look and see what is currently wrong in the existing life. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, it is critical to acknowledge feelings so they do not gnaw at oneself from the inside. Second, reflection leads to real change and adaptation. While not everything can be changed in life, there are many things that can be improved or altered in a life style to maybe align oneself more closer to the desired end.
However, in acknowledging these feelings and looking for change, one must also realistically separate fact from fiction. Certain things may not be able to be changed, or improved. To be at peace with reality and adjust to the reality is key in finding happiness. Somethings were not meant to be and when acceptance of that finally occurs, there can a be a peace. This peace can also lead to alternate opportunities. Furthermore, one does not need to completely despise the existence one possesses in contrast to one’s desired path. There are good and bad in both viewed existences.
Again, a strong life view, spirituality or philosophy can help anchor an individual with these nonfinite losses and ghosts, but one needs first to understand what matters most in this fallen world. If one chases objects and worldly things, then grief and loss and discontentment will be a constant in life. We grieve too much over what matters and what life has given to worry over alternate losses. This again does not mean to denounce or not try to find change if possible. It does not mean that these feelings do not need validated either, but it does mean, we can reshape our ideas of hope and our own personal identity to fit the existence we have. We can change what we can but we can also shape the existence we have into something better.
Nonfinite grief is real. It is the road not traveled. It is the life not fulfilled. It is the career never started or the child never had. It is a life long sadness. Sometimes it is placed in more valuable pursuits, while other times it is placed upon trivial worldly things. Regardless, it needs to be validated, understood and utilized to either help with current contentment or adjustment to something better.
Grief Counselors can help the sad of heart validate their feelings regarding “what if” or “how it should have been”, but grief counselors also need to help individuals reshape their identity and hope to the existing situation. These acknowledgements can help a person fix certain things or at least adjust to the existence that is given and find the good in it. Again, grief counselors can also help guide individuals to things more worthy of attention and within one’s own control.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
“What Is Happiness?”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today. Access here
“Intangible grief”. Heather McEwen. August 25th, 2014. By Heart and Hand. Access here
“What’s Intangible Loss? Definition + How to Cope”. Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT. May 2nd, 2022. Cake. Access here
“What Is Happiness and Why Is It Important? (+ Definition)”. Courtney Akerman. February 16th, 2019. Positive Psychology. Access here