Grief is pivotal, central and important emotion in human life. It is forever tied to the fallen human condition and deeply connected to the emotion of love. Grief is more than just a sentient emotion but an emotion felt in many animals as well. Hence grief is beyond intellect but also instinctive and evolutionary.
Individuals do consciously grieve and understand the loss but grief also is a natural reaction to loss at the most simple level. Grief as a formula is simply put love plus loss equals grief. Love is a binding emotion. Love ties one to another person or thing. Through value of the possessed and habit of possessing, anything that removes that love or thing causes discomfort. This discomfort is grief.
The grief reaction to loss varies and is correlated to the value of the loved person or thing. If something has little value, then the loss is inconsequential. If something or someone has great value in in one’s life, then the loss is very consequential. Some losses can be small and insignificant while other losses can be life altering. The greater the loss, the greater the grief.
The loss may be objective or subjective in value according to the person. Someone who was raised by his or her grandparents will grieve the loss of a grandparent more than someone who only saw his or her grandparents once a year. Loss can also be subjective in that is may seem odd to others. For example, some may find it extremely odd to mourn the loss of a pet, while pet owners would disagree completely. Again the subjective value is key in understanding the loss reaction.
While grief in many ways is abides by universal standards and reactions, one must also realize that the reactions within this wide norm differs extremely. So while grief is universal it is still unique.
Grief as stated is not only a conscious pain but also a unconscious reaction. The grave importance of grief is to help the person or animal adjust to the loss. The adjustment process is a long mourning period where one learns how to cope without the person or thing. Most non complicated grief reactions to significant loss lasts six months to a year before it becomes labeled as pathological or complicated. This does not guarantee that grief goes away within a set time, but it does illustrate that new coping strategies are incorporated into the person’s life to better deal with the loss on a day to day basis.
Grief allows one’s mental self to heal. It permits the body to mourn and adjust to loss. Long ago this natural adjustment and self healing was considered a pathology in itself but psychology now teaches that grief is an important transitional ingredient in healing. It should not be dismissed or rejected but fully accepted as a normal and healthy reaction to loss. Seeing grief as something bad or unhealthy is a dangerous view to hold. Grief instead is the body reacting to loss and learning to adjust to that loss in a more healthy way. Complete adjustment is a simple lie. This is the price of love. Anything worth loving is never worth forgetting or missing but grieving allows our mind to heal and learn to exist differently.
Grief hence has a very important function in healing but grief is also a social sign to others. In animals especially, signs of grief permits other members of the community to help the grieving animal to recover. The same social signs of grief, tears, crying and emotional withdraw signify to family and friends that one needs help. Grieving hence serves a signal to the community to help those who are sad or depressed. It is a social subconscious distress symbol to family and friends.
Grief because of this is not something bad. Losing something or someone is bad but the reaction to it is not bad. If there was no reaction to loss, then one would be merely a non sentient creature merely existing from meal to meal. Instead, the reaction to loss not only serves as a healthy reaction to loss that leads to recovery, but it is also a sentient reaction to something or someone that was very special.
It allows one to heal and alert others of distress but it forever reminds one the value of what was lost. It never allows one to forget the beloved and the love that was shared. This grief becomes part of who we are the moment we enter into love or deep communion with another human being. If one did not grieve, then what value is that relationship? Grieving is important in identifying what mattered most and not allowing what mattered most to be ever forgotten.
Grieving in its later stages, pushes individuals to healthy coping measures where acute depression is replaced with action. Memoralizing and living a certain way in honor of the beloved becomes healthy and conducive expressions of grief. In national losses, social action for better laws or prevention of future loss are a result of healthy coping produced through grief. Grief hence is an important emotion in being human and living a healthy human life.
Suffering and loss are products of an imperfect world. Those of faith pray and hope that the next world will have no suffering and loss. They pray that grief will only be a necessary emotion in the temporal world and not the after life. In this, those of faith can cope even better than those of no faith. The reality regardless of faith though is that one must escape and embrace grief while in this world if they wish to cope and live a healthy life.
Certified grief counselors can help individuals cope with grief and embrace it a healthy way. Change is never an easy thing but through help, one can utilize grief to better adjust and adapt to loss. The American Academy of Grief Counseling offers a comprehensive program in Grief Counseling. Certified grief counselors learn the basics of grieving and are trained to help others. Beyond the basic Grief Counseling certification, members and qualified professionals can also specialize in Child and Adolescent Grief Counseling, Pet Loss Grief Support, and Christian Grief Counseling.
The programs are online and independent study. After completion of the online program, one can become certified for four years. If you are interested in learning more about the American Academy of Grief Counseling’s certification program then please review the program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. Once certified as a Grief Counselor, you can then become able to help others face grief in a healthy and natural way.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C