Today I’m going to talk to you a bit about why grief hurts so much and what you can expect from the pain of grief over time using a really lovely and simple analogy that a lot of my clients have found helpful.
Now, grief is a universal human experience.
We will all at some time in our lives experience the loss of a loved one.
When this happens, our thoughts, and our feelings, and even some of our behaviours can seem to make no sense at all. It can be overwhelming and incredibly confusing. This is perfectly normal, and I’ll tell you why.
As human beings, we are programmed to attach to other people. Our attachment to others makes us feel safe, secure, and connected in the world. From the time we’re born, we immediately try to attach to our primary care givers. So when we lose somebody that we love, when we lose somebody to whom we are connected, that pain, that mourning, that grief, that is the pain of detachment. It’s the pain of detaching from somebody else who is not going to come back.
That process is not an intellectual process. It is an all body instinctive human process. Those feelings of shock and anger and fear and intense sadness need to make their way through your experience in their own time.
Now, part of what makes grief so scary for people is that they worry that the intensity and that frequency of emotional response will never ever let up.
One way I like to reassure them that it will let up is through this really helpful analogy, and it’s called ball in a box. What you have here is a ball in a box, and the ball represents your grief. Early on in the grieving process, the ball is really, really big. There is a pain button inside the box and in the beginning, grief is so overwhelming and so big, the ball is so big that it’s constantly hitting the pain button and it can’t move around the box without hitting the pain button.
That’s why early on it can feel that you’re just knocked down by the pain of grief. This is perfectly normal.
Now over time, for most people, that ball will get smaller, but that doesn’t mean that the ball isn’t just roaming around this box and that it won’t occasionally hit that pain button and you’ll have that wave of intensity, that wave of intense response again.
Now, what causes that ball to hit that pain button are what we call triggers. Some of these triggers are conscious, we’ll know them. Anniversaries, maybe certain smells or memories or things that remind us of the person, but sometimes you’ll have no idea what’s happened that has caused that ball to just bump into that pain button and fill you again, overwhelm you again with the pain of loss and mourning. And that is perfectly normal too.
But the ball will get smaller over time. It will.
Now, if you are going through a mourning period right now or you are helping support somebody go through a mourning period, give it time. You need to give your mourning process the respect it deserves to pass through your body, detach, and establish an identity without this loved one who is not going to come back.
I know it feels overwhelming right now, I know it seems like it will never, ever end, but I promise you, you will get respite from the intensity and the frequency of pain over time.
I hope that this has been helpful in explaining why grief hurts so much, and I send you all of my warmth and all of my compassion in your mourning process.