According to my dictionary, Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, grief is defined as “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow, painful regret.” While this encompasses some of what the experience of grief is like, those of us who have experienced it know that it encompasses so much more and is unique to each person. In short, each person’s experience of grief is different. While we can say that we have each had the experience of grief, we cannot say that we can truly understand another person’s grief because we each grieve differently. But we are not alone, every human being, every animal, grieves at some point in his or her life.
We often connote grief strictly with the death of a loved one but we experience grief anytime we are forced to give up anything or anyone that was valued or important to us. Some of the most common losses (besides death) I hear about from my patients are the loss of health, the loss of youth, the loss of a loved one through a separation (either temporary or permanent), and the loss of a job. Grief goes hand in hand with life because our lives are constantly changing and with each change comes a loss.
Grief tends to be a “full body” experience. It is a natural reaction that encompasses our minds (our thoughts and our emotions) and often our body as well. Tomorrow I will discuss some of the things that we might experience when we are grieving.