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The Need To Express Grief

I recently spoke with a woman whose child had died several years ago. She asked if I could write about her experiences so that this information may in turn help others with their grief. This then is part of her story...

Her son was quite young when he died, and as I listened, this woman before me told of her son. She spoke of his birth, and of how she and her husband were so excited with the anticipation of the new addition to their family. They had three daughters already, and were so looking forward to their new baby. She told me of her sons’ early years, with tears in her eyes as she spoke of her precious memories. Her memories brought great emotion as she spoke them. She told of his growing up, the tender times, and the tougher times too. And then the moment of his death… This young man had died, suddenly, and the stress of his death continued to be felt by this woman and her husband and daughters.

I have met with this woman on several occasions. During these times, she talks about her memories of her son, of her pain at his loss, of her anger at the universe. She talks about whatever comes to her mind in connection with her son and his death. She speaks of her husband, and of how he does not seem to be grieving like she is. Doesn’t he miss him? Why does he work so many hours a week? Am I going crazy? And so I listen and we talk... We talk about all of this, and she begins to become aware of feeling some relief from her pain. She finds relief too that she is able to talk as freely about her loss as she wants to. Her friends and other family members seem to have less patience with her lately. It is as if they no longer want her to speak of her son or her grief. Are they growing weary of me? Why will they not acknowledge my son? Why do they tell me that I need to get on with my life? My son, my son, is dead! Don’t they understand? And so we talk some more… We explore the reactions of other people, and of how death tends to make others uncomfortable, not knowing for sure how to help, and not wanting to cause her more pain. We speak too of her daughters. How are they doing? So many questions… We struggle to find answers that make sense. It doesn’t even feel that I have a family any more, she will say. She feels alone, without hope and without purpose. My son is dead! And she weeps as she recalls more memories. And then sweetly, like a brilliant sunrise, she laughs aloud as she recalls some fun times. So many tender moments to recall…

This woman is experiencing a wide range of thoughts and emotions, and this is the key point, she needs to be able to express these so that the hold that her grief has on her may lessen. If she keeps all these thoughts and feelings bottled up inside, her goal of eventually being in less pain will be harder to achieve. She will never forget, yet her pain should become less intense over time. When we hold inside our pain, make no mistake, it will show itself. One frequent way that this happens is that we may develop physical problems with our bodies. The pain must be expressed, and as it is expressed and processed, we notice that healing can take place. This woman speaks with me because she finds that others do not understand her pain or her experiences, and so she values the opportunity to talk in a place where it is safe to do so, and where she knows she will not be judged for grieving in her own unique way. I try to help her mourn this loss, so that she can one day again know peace and happiness.

If you have lost a loved one you may be in great pain, and one caring and helpful thing that you can do for yourself is to find a way to express the full range of your thoughts and emotions in a safe place. Some choose to write down their experiences in a notepad that they keep, while others find a close friend that is sympathetic and encourages them to talk. Still others find support through a local grief support group. Actually, the manner in which you do this is probably less important than that you do it. It is like exercise. It does not matter so much the type of exercise, just so long as you find an exercise that you enjoy and that you engage in it on a regular basis. Create ways to let out your grief. Try not to let it bottle up inside of you. You need not feel that you are “weak” for letting your emotions show. Actually, expressing yourself as you grieve can be one of the more helpful things that you can do for yourself. And trust that over time your emotional reactions to your loss will evolve, and that eventually they will become less painful. And after all, a tragedy has occurred whenever a loved one dies, but it becomes even more tragic when those still alive die inside as the years go by after their loss. Attend to your thoughts and emotional reactions; express them in ways that feel right to you, and trust that the grief process will guide you to healing over time. Finally, if you feel that you would like professional assistance in dealing with your loss, seek out a grief counselor or another qualified professional. Grief is hard work. Be gentle with yourself…

(Please note that many of the specific details in the above presentation have been altered so as to protect the actual identity of the person whose loss is described.)

Grief Counselor, Dr. Steven Bailley
Grief Counselor
The purpose of these articles is to provide interested readers with information and thoughts about loss, grief, mourning, and grief counseling. A variety of grief-related topics have been covered. It is my sincerest hope that you will find the information presented here to be of interest and assistance to you. If there are specific topics of interest that you would like to see added in the future, I welcome you to email me with your suggestions. If you have a need to talk with me, please call me at my office at (713) 914-9944.
Collection of papers and articles on grief, and coping with grief
The need to express our grief… Grief is Different For Each of Us The emotions of grief: Guilt
Grief, Mourning and Grief Counseling The Experience of Grief The Emotions of Grief: Anger
Reactions from others… The Seasons of My Heart The emotions of grief: “I feel like I’ve lost control of myself.”
The Closeness of Mortality Ambivalence
A 'Grief Journal' Grief After Suicide
Research and clinical experience support the idea that many bereaved individuals gain benefit from grief counseling. Ideally, counseling can help people to cope as adaptively as possible during difficult times that follow a loss, and can also assist in bringing grief to a more adequate resolution. Should you decide to explore the possibility of seeking professional assistance, at any time following your loss, I welcome you to contact me to explore this option (appointments and fee schedule are available upon request). Every person is unique, and I will work with you to assist you in coping with your specific needs. At this most difficult time in your life, I wish to extend to you my sincerest condolences for your loss.

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