How to find meaning after a loss

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meaning after loss

Everyone on the earth has undergone a feeling of distress and grief in their lives. That has led to various psychological and physiological issues. However, we can use our grief to grow and come out stronger and better. All we need to do is understand what we are going through and find meaning after it. 

Stages of grief

There are five stages of grief. Everyone goes through these stages but does not understand them or name them. These stages are:-

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression 

5. Acceptance

We need to remember that these stages are not linear and there is no set map for grief. There is no right method or wrong method of grieving. However, once people experience acceptance, they need more. Acceptance is not enough for our generation. 

Finding meaning is the sixth stage of grief

Most of the time we want meaning in our lives. Once we have accepted the loss and reached the fifth stage we need to move ahead and hence ‘Meaning, is the sixth stage of grief. We need to understand though, there is no meaning in death or a pandemic, a divorce, or a job loss. The meaning is not in the horrible event but the meaning is in us. It is what we find afterward. Meaning is a helpful perspective for people to hold on to.

Factors that guide the concept of meaning:-

  • Meaning is relative and personal.
  • Meaning takes time – we may not find meaning immediately or for months or years. We cannot rush meaning. 
  • Meaning doesn’t require understanding. We may not understand why something happened which caused grief. But still, we can understand meaning.
  • Even when we do find meaning, we won’t feel it was worth the cost. 
  • Our loss is not a test, a lesson, something to handle, a gift, or a blessing. It is simply a happening in life. The meaning is in us afterward.
  • Only we can find meaning for ourselves and it will hold good for us and the situation. 
  • Meaningful connections can replace those painful memories in time. 

The post-traumatic stress caused by grief is not exactly post a situation but remains attached with the episode which caused grief. We can though opt to grow through this. There is a possibility of post-traumatic growth also and it is so important in tough times.

Share grief with others who want to help

The reality is that people try as hard as they can but may not understand a person’s grief. For each one of us, grief is different. The same situation may have different grieving feelings and different pain. So it is important not to compare grief. To know that the world is big enough for all the losses. Sometimes we must let go of the expectation that others will be able to understand our grief. However, even if others may not get it, one must share the feeling and let them know how you feel. All big losses and small losses are valid. Everyone’s grief is unique. Remember that all the losses live together. 

Post-traumatic growth and how to start 

We always hear about post-traumatic stress but hardly about post-traumatic growth. There is a relation between this growth and finding meaning. The myth is that we feel that we need to make our grief smaller. However, the truth is that we have to make ourselves bigger and grow around our grief. It is not what one will do after overcoming grief but what a person will be afterward. How can we honor the time we lived under grief? How can we make life more meaningful for ourselves and others? Allowing ourselves to continue in life is the beginning of post-traumatic growth and shutting down may not be a wise choice. 

If something is wrong with our car we get support. If something goes wrong in our apartment we get support. At times we think that we have to fight our way through grief. However, it is okay to ask for support and help.

How to start the growth is a decision if one is willing to find meaning in time. Are you willing to honor what caused the grief? It is a small decision that am I willing to grow and honor my pain.

Is there a timeline for grief?

Absolutely not. When someone asks how long the grief of a loved one who died will be? I always answer for as long as the person is gone. So if there is a void for a long time, one is going to grieve for a long time. That does not mean you always will grief with pain. With time one can grief more in love than pain. There is no timeline. We do not get over a loss, we do not recover from a loss, we learn to live with it. 

Help children when they experience grief?

Our children are often forgotten grievers . Remember mourning is what is outside of us and grieving is what is inside. I cannot make someone grieve or make kids grieve. All we can do is model healthy grief. How can we do that? We must tell them to grief fully. It is okay to be sad, it is okay to miss a gone person or a situation. We must teach them to live fully. Life has to go on and so grieving and living have to be modeled together. 

Children generally do not know what grief is and how much they are in grief. So all we have to do is converse with them. The new generation is more intelligent than we think and hence we must try and be truthful about the situation and be honest with them.

Collective grief

Sometimes there are collective griefs of many people together in a similar situation such as a pandemic or an accident where many may have died or a situation that involves a group. It is important not to close the conversations. This ability enables providing meaning to the grief. Every person no matter how rich or famous or successful in this world has gone through tough grief. There is nothing wrong with you when it happens to you as an individual or a group. Remember that grief may not be in your hands but healthy grieving and finding meaning are!

Importance of conversation and reaching out

If someone is struggling with grief and unable to come out of it, the most important thing to remember is to reach out and ask for support. Talk to someone who might have undergone the grief. Look for an organization, family member, friend, colleague, etc. but find support. We get so afraid of our feelings. We feel if we grief in a situation or start crying, we will never stop. But we always come out of it as no feeling is final and forever. We will come out eventually but all we need to learn is to come out healthily. No emotion is permanent. We get stuck in things as if the situation is forever but no one knows what tomorrow is going to be like! We must take out always and never from our grieving library. So you feel sad, name it for today. Tomorrow will be a different day. 

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