Narrowly Defined Grief

I think we have too narrow a definition of when we are “allowed” to grieve.

The morning after the election, my Mom sent me a text asking “how are you doing?” I wrote back that I was “Only ok I think. I’m grieving.” I was not being dramatic, that was really the best description.

Grief isn’t just for when a loved one dies (which sometimes seems like the only “acceptable” time to use that word). It is a personal emotional response to loss. So, you can grieve the loss of a society you thought was coming, you can grieve the loss of a pet or the selling of your childhood home. There is no big or small grief, only personal ones

I think it is important that we open up our definition of grief. I was talking with a friend who was coming to terms with not having any more children. She has a lovely, healthy, happy family…but part of her always saw herself with more kids. She was trying to brush off her feelings but I told her she should give herself permission to grieve. It doesn’t discount how happy she is with what she has, it just acknowledges that there is a loss she is adjusting to.

It is also important to accept that young children feel grief, but in different ways then adults do. It is our job to help them weather and recover from losses…it is not our job to rate for them which losses are “important” or when they are “fine” and should “get over it.”

Sometimes with our wider adult view of the world we trivialize the things that young children are feeling. They aren’t used to the big emotions that swamp them suddenly. Their worldview is different then ours, closer to home and much more personal. They won’t react the way we think they “should” but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Moving forward, I hope you give yourself permission to feel loss in all of its forms. You aren’t wrong for feeling true grief, even if it doesn’t feel like something you “should” be “so upset” about.

And please, extend the same compassion to the children in your life. By all means, teach them how to deal with the big emotions they feel…but make sure to teach them it is ok to feel them.



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