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The Many Faces Of Grief

Written by: Margaret Dennis, BA, MCA, ESFCD, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

I held my “Becoming an Empowered Grief Warrior” workshop recently with an amazing group of women.


They took my workshop to learn more about grief…and they did. On almost every feedback form that I received, there was a comment about how they didn’t realize that grief could happen in so many different ways…and take on so many different faces. For each and every one of these women, when they totaled up the number of grief experiences they had had in their lifetime, they were all surprised by the actual number.


Out of 30 possible events that I had listed, the average number of grief experiences was 14. That is a LOT of grief that has been experienced and for most of the women in my workshop, a lot of these events had never been associated with experiencing grief.


Which lends itself to the question: If this is true for these women, how many other people is it true for? I would bet it is true for a lot of us.

Grief Defined


Grief can be defined as:

  • a natural emotional response to a loss of someone or something for which a bond or affection had been formed

Which is a very flowery way of saying, grief is how you feel when you lose someone or something important to you. What it doesn’t specify is that that loss could be ANY loss. As long as the loss meant something to you, it counts as grief. It doesn’t need to mean anything to anyone else – just to you.


Recognizable Grief


Grief is most often associated with the death of a loved one – a parent, partner, child, friend, or close relative. In these cases, grief is an emotion that is expected to be felt, to be expressed, and to be witnessed. We allow space for grief in these moments and understand that the person experiencing grief is hurting and may need our support. We may not know how to support them, but we accept their experience of grief as normal and understandable in this particular situation. In his recent podcast, David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief and loss, discusses ways that you can help someone who is grieving, offering advice about what to say and what not to say.


But what about the times where grief is not so apparent or understandable? What about the times where we are experiencing grief over a loss that others may not attribute grief? Or a loss that other people feel is silly or stupid to grieve over? What happens to us then? In these cases, we are often left to our own devices to suffer in silence and deal with our grief alone.


Not-so-recognizable Grief


Throughout our lifetime, we will experience any number of grief episodes, each one impacting us in various ways. Sometimes we can recognize the loss as grief, while other times we cannot. Following are some examples of experiences that can cause feelings of grief:

  • Bullied in school

  • Failed a grade

  • Lost a friendship

  • Broke up with the first person you ever truly, deeply loved

  • Didn’t get into your first choice for college, university

  • Never finished college/university – flunked out, dropped out

  • Fired from a job

  • Quit a job

  • Didn’t get the promotion you were promised/had hoped for

  • Lost a business you owned – either because it failed, or you sold it

  • Declared bankruptcy

  • Business Partner left your company

  • Best friend moved away, and you lost touch

  • Close colleague left the company or moved to a different position/location

  • Pet died

  • Partner cheated on you

  • Suffered a miscarriage

  • Unable to have children

  • Diagnosed with a life-threatening disease

  • Diagnosed with a mental health challenge (depression, anxiety, ADHD)

  • Supported someone you were/are close to through their personal trauma/health crisis

  • Been sexually assaulted

  • Victim of domestic violence/abuse (emotional, physical, mental)

  • Divorced / Separated

  • House burnt down

I’m curious. How many of the above experiences have you had? This list is by no means finite and there are hundreds more examples. What other experiences have you had in your lifetime that have included a loss of someone or something that meant something to you?


The Many Faces of Grief


As we go through life and experience various grief events, our grief is compounded, one grief event on top of another, on top of the one after that. Our grief stacks up and, over time, if we do not recognize it and deal with it, grief has a way of standing up and getting noticed.


It may show up as unexpected tears in the middle of a business meeting or unexplainable feelings of anxiety or depression.


It may show up as short-tempered interactions with your children or colleagues, a lack of patience, or trouble sleeping.


It may show up as an inability to make true, deep connections with others and trouble maintaining friendships or romantic relationships.


Grief wears many faces in how it is experienced and in how it shows up. The trick is to step back and give yourself the space and time to notice where grief may have shown up over your lifetime. Sometimes, when we have a better idea of what to look for, grief is easier to recognize and the awareness that comes from that recognition can be the first step in moving forward in dealing with and healing from our grief.


Sometimes, however, our grief events have left us with deep trauma and are deeply buried, and we may not be ready or able to acknowledge them. If this is the case, seeking help from professionals trained in trauma support and recovery is advisable.


In my work as a Women’s Empowerment & Grief Coach, I help support women around the world honour their experiences, emotions, dreams, and desires in both their personal and professional lives, while gracefully handling everything life throws at them.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram; visit me on my Website; check out my 2021 TEDx Talk about grief; or book a Complimentary Coaching Session to learn more about what I do and find out how we could work together. I look forward to meeting you!


 

Margaret Dennis, BA, MCA, ESFCD, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

In 2008, Margaret’s love of human connection was shaken by the loss of her son, twin brother to her daughter Lily, when he was just 3 days old. Rocked to her core, she immersed herself in her event management business and the custom trim company she co-owned. After a complete emotional breakdown, she realized that women couldn’t just make the grief go away the way society expects them to. In 2020 she founded EVOLV coaching to help women around the world honor their lives, emotions, and businesses while gracefully handling everything life throws at them. Her 2021 TEDx talk opened the door to exploring grief and inspired her to develop a transformational methodology that guides women in moving from messy, to functional, to empowered grief. Margaret supports companies through 1:1 coaching, team coaching, motivational speaking, grief workshops, and creating grief plans to help their employees who are suffering. Personal growth junky and lover of funky shoes, Margaret loves road tripping with Lily, and their mini Bernedoodle, Daphne.

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