Grief isn’t just about a death of a loved one. It is about loss. Losing a job, divorce, moving, a diagnosis of a chronic ailment – these can all produce grief. If you don’t get your grief out it can manifest itself in addictions and compulsions that cause even more problems. In all these situations there is a sense of powerlessness. Things aren’t as we think they should be. Life is not following the script that we have in our heads.
There are things you can do in the wake of overwhelming grief that help. The best results I’ve read about were from cultures that didn’t keep silent about their grief. They got really loud and waved their arms. This is totally foreign to Western culture. It is normal for us to grieve in private or not at all. We feel that grief is embarrassing and should be done silently at home, if at all. Perhaps we see grief as too personal.
Perhaps we have a problem when anything from “inside” ourselves gets “outside”. In the same way we have prohibitions about nudity, we have prohibitions about showing too much emotion. It is seen as gauche or tacky. It isn’t civilized.
When is grief over? I like the Jewish concept of grieving. There are specific time periods and specific actions for grief. There are levels that are allowed, and there is a time that you must get back into the community. You can’t wall yourself off forever.
Perhaps we all need better ways to process our grief. Perhaps we need better ways to identify it first of all. Perhaps we need regular rituals to get it out. Or is this just another way to compartmentalize it and shove it away in a box?
Perhaps people keep the same boyfriend or spouse who is at worst abusive and at best lazy and unmotivated out of that same sense of fear. Perhaps people stick with the same dead-end job for the same reason. Perhaps all sense of powerlessness comes from a root fear of death. Perhaps the root of this comes from a sense of a loss of control. Perhaps our need for control is the problem.