What Is Grief?
Grief is a complex web of emotions and reactions that people have in response to a profound loss or change. A lot of times we associate grief with sadness. Deep sorrow is certainly a primary aspect of grief, but there are a lot of other emotions mixed in. A person who is grieving goes through a cycle of emotions from shock and numbness to disbelief and denial, sadness, depression, anger, frustration, guilt, even rage.
When do we experience grief?
The most common time that people experience grief is after the loss of a loved one, but we can also experience grief after any sort of major change or loss. Sometimes even change we want like a new job or a big move can cause us to feel grief because we still have to process the change and let go of the things that we are losing as we move forward. Most often, grief happens when people or things we love are suddenly no longer there.
Two years ago, my closest friend, a woman that I considered a sister, vanished from my life with no explanation or warning. She didn’t die, just stopped returning my calls one day. A few months later, she resurfaced, but she was evasive and wouldn’t answer any questions about what was going on with her. She vanished again, came back a year later with a new baby and told me a horror story about having been in hiding with a convicted felon. We reconciled, I helped her get settled back in our town, and then she disappeared again, this time for good.
We had been friends for almost 25 years. She had three other children (now adults) that I helped to raise. The loss of our relationship with devastating, and more so because of the months of yo-yoing back and forth.
There are places that I’ll never be able to go again without feeling sad. There are days it’s quite literally hard to breathe. Whenever there’s a major event in my life–and sometimes for no reason at all–I still catch myself grabbing the phone to call her. There are days I’m so angry I could burn a hole in a wall by staring.
Everyone I know assumes I’m “over it” or doesn’t understand why it was a big deal in the first place. “Screw her, she left, you don’t need that shit in your life.”
Well, I agree. I don’t need or deserve to be treated like a convenience. That doesn’t change the emptiness, the anger, or the depression. I live with them, and I walk through them because I have no choice. And like many others who are grieving an unexpected loss, art is one of the biggest ways I process my feelings.
Tackling Grief Through Creative Outlets
Creative outlets are an essential part of coping with grief and reorganizing/integrating after a traumatic loss. Because art (in any form) engages both the body and the mind, and it’s driven by the subconscious, it can provide a way to center and ground ourselves. It helps us express things that we’ve only begun to process and may not have the words to verbalize.
It’s important to me that something practical and helpful to others comes out of my art, so I turn most of it into free to use web graphics. I’m into grunge and bright colors, which might seem like an odd combination, but I like creating harmony out of discordant elements.
Here are some awesome things to do when wrestling with strong emotions:
It’s simple, inexpensive, and the tactile experience of breaking crayons is incredibly satisfying.
Another simple, inexpensive art form that can be a great emotional release.
Playing an instrument.
Requires advanced knowledge but music has a whole host of psychological and emotional benefits.Things to remember:Grief is a natural human reaction to loss and you’re entitled to your feelings.Grief can come in waves, and it’s common for people to experience a range of different, sometimes conflicting feelings, within a relatively short time.
Bottom line: You’re not alone!
Reach out to someone if you need help. If there’s no one you can talk to at home, here’s an extensive list of hotlines and resources.
Everyone processes a loss differently. It may take you more or less time than others expect, and that’s okay. Take the time you need and explore different forms art or other activities that may help you cope.
Rose B. Fischer is an avid fan of foxes, Stargate: SG-1, and Star Trek. She would rather be on the Enterprise right now.
Since she can’t be a Starfleet Officer, she became a speculative fiction author whose stories feature women who defy cultural stereotypes.
In her fictional worlds, gender is often fluid, sexuality exists on a spectrum, and “disability” does not define an individual. Her current project is The Foxes of Synn, a low-tech science fantasy serial.
She is a survivor of domestic violence who lives with multiple disabilities. In the early 2000s, she became homeless after leaving her abusive spouse. She later entered a transitional housing program while attending college. These experiences inspired her to begin writing non-fiction, and have had lasting impacts on her approach to fiction writing.
She publishes science fiction, science fantasy, horror, and biographical essays. She blogs about trauma recovery on hardcorehope.com ando about the intersection of storytelling and social responsibility on rosebfischer.com.