Good Grievin’

How is it possible to refer to grief as good? Grief can be painful, chaotic and scary, but surely not good?

Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship will say that grief hurts a lot. It hurts so much that we wonder if we will never be the same again.

Grief is difficult, but it can be managed well.

To manage it well is to experience “good grief”, as opposed to “bad grief.” This may seem confusing, but to grieve well it is necessary to share the upset with others or write about it even if it may feel horrible. There are people who will not “open up” because they do not want to feel the hurt. They hide their pain away hoping it will go away on its own. It doesn’t.

Hiding grief can feel good in the short term but over time the grief returns in a stronger form and often when one least expects it. Instead of a normal “wave of grief” there is a “tidal wave” of hurt. It is as if the grief ferments and turns sour in the process while increasing in size. People who have trouble being open with their hurt will say that over time they are feeling worse instead of better. For those who open up, it is just the opposite.

So, even though it can be upsetting to do so, by sharing one’s grief-related feelings such as sadness, anger, yearning, depression, guilt and many others, one will feel upset, but then eventually lighter. It is as if the talking or writing has mended the broken heart for a time. Before long, however, the hurt will build up and need to be released yet again.

Grief is not just raw feelings. The body too is affected and can feel tired and strained as well as be more prone to illnesses such as the flu or colds. This physical discomfort also can be discussed, preferably while taking a walk.

That’s right; even though the body feels exhausted and sore it is good to push it into a long outdoor walk. The good thing about the walk is that even though it may be tough getting going, the mourner feels much better during the outing and a whole lot better after.

Grief can be painful for the body and the soul and yet if this grief is well managed, the experience can be healthy and good. One has to be patient, however; it can take up to a year to start to feel like one did before. Each passing week will lead to improvements, but for up to a year, or even longer for some people, there can be those waves of grief and the discomfort that goes with them.

A big part of good grieving is to not fight the experience or hide it away. It is important, particularly for people who usually control their feelings a lot, to give oneself permission to hurt, and to actively share the experience with trusted family and friends or one’s own journal. In this way, paradoxical as it may seem, healing comes.

So, in summary, to attempt to feel good by hiding grief away can lead to a bad grief experience over time. To face the grief may hurt, but this leads to a good grief experience and an eventual return to normal life.


Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
Good Grievin’
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Denis works with couples and individuals. His areas of interest include marriage, grief and stress. He also counsels people who suffer from depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as those struggling with personal growth issues.

Denis is eclectic in his use of psychological approaches, which include Adlerian, cognitive/behavioural, systems, psychodynamic, brief solution focused, existential and emotionally focused therapies.

Denis is a popular speaker who presents talks and workshops on a variety of topics including marriage, grief, retirement, emotional maturity and family relationships. He has published a book titled, “Marriage Can Be Great!…no really.”

Denis was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He helped to start the first hospice program in B.C. in 1975.

Denis received his Master of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia in 1977 and works as a Registered Psychologist. He is a member of the B.C. College of Psychologists and the B.C. Psychological Association.

Most importantly Denis has been married to Maureen for over thirty years and they have four children.

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