WHO WE ARE
"It's okay to not be okay."
We have all lost something - big and small something’s. Grief and loss are a normal part of what it means to be human.
Because it’s such a normal part of our everyday lives, we sometimes diminish that stinging, day-to-day losses that don’t matter or don’t impact us. We might even “should” ourselves into thinking that it’s not okay to be hurt or impacted by the loss. Our culture has gone so far to narrate a message that says when we have a big loss, there is an “ideal timeframe” where you are allowed to be sad but then you must carry on.
Examples of small and big something’s that we lose:
Desires to be…
Sports or other things we have used to define our identity
Realizations on what we can’t control as much as we thought
One way we often talk with our clients seeking grief therapy about how grief works is by using an image of waves coming in and coming out. There are some days that the waves are bigger and others when the waves might be smaller. I think about what it feels like to be standing in the ocean and how, when I see the wave coming, I might be able to actually stand my ground. I might spread my feet out or brace myself, but I won’t get knocked down. There are other times when I don’t see the wave coming or it was way bigger than I thought it would be, and “whoosh,” I find myself getting a mouthful of water.
That’s one unique thing about grief: Sometimes it hits us when we least expect. Biology tells us that our bodies might even remember how painful a loss was that it remembers before our mind puts it together.
The other unique thing about grief: Many times, it’s complicated. Losing something isn’t often as straightforward as it seems. I (Kim) think of some of my clients who lost a job, and there is part of them that is actually grateful. Or clients who have lost a parent, and they experience sadness and anger when the loss occurs because of the uniqueness of that relationship.
“It’s okay to not be okay” - to name that something hurts simply because it hurts. There is hope in the process.
Also, there’s no timetable on how long someone should grieve. Research shows that for most people, the acute phase of grief lasts about six months to a year; but for a minority it takes longer.
Our practice at Steady Hope Counseling likes to move beyond the idea of 5 or 6 stages of grief. Though those are a helpful framework for naming the complexity of grief and considering what emotions or experiences one might have, we see how grief is not linear. For many of us, thinking we have to progress in a linear path, or we are doing something wrong can actually be harmful to our grief process.
There is no set pattern, not for everyone and not even within each person. Each grief is unique, as each love is unique. There are no stages capable of containing all the experiences of love and pain. There are no stages of grief.
Ultimately our "homeostasis" is ruptured and that cannot go without being felt. Grief, pain, and heartache are unwelcome feelings by most, if not all of us. However, they are very healthy and needed. Missing something is a hard thing, but a beautiful thing. The pace at which we grieve and how we grieve what we miss is as unique as we are. No two people will grieve the same and should not be expected to either.
C.S. Lewis wrote,” The pain now is part of the joy then." The hurt is a sign of love. The hurt is a sign of the happiness and joy we had. When we don't allow ourselves to feel pain, we also stifle the experience of joy. So, grieving well means having resilience for feeling the pain but also knowing that you are OK and that you will make it through and thus experience both immense pain and immense joy.
Grief is something to be embraced not ignored.
Our hope as we provide grief therapy in Atlanta is to help our clients navigate the waves of grief; to help explore ways to move forward versus move on.
How does our team of therapists support clients seeking therapy connected to grief?
Acknowledge any loss, big or small, as significant.
“Be with” / being present in all of it: the messy, the unnamed, the complicated thoughts, the parts that you don’t share with others, the joy of what has been lost. Our Atlanta team values holding space without timelines of when you “should” be over it. We continue to be with clients and acknowledge losses as waves that come and go over the days, weeks, months, and years.
Be a place of hope, that though the loss will remain a big part of your life and story, there is hope.
Learn strategies for coping, containment, and grounding that can help you grieve and feel the feelings of the loss while also being able to be present in the day-to-day realities of life in the present.
Offer tips to help ride the waves of grief and feel less alone when the waves are unexpected.
Process any identify shifts and help clients redevelop their sense of uniqueness and wholeness.
Process through any expectations or variables that are connected to the grief you know you feel.