Everyone mourns different things in diverse ways, but is all grief the same in its basics? There are so many different emotions that we put under the category of grief. Anger, pain, hurt, confusion, anxiety, fear, and so many more outside and in between those. Even if two people feel the same feelings, their reactions to those emotions can differ anyway. Someone who feels anger might react by lashing out, cutting off the people they love, doing dangerous or irrational things that they may never have done before. Another person might suppress their anger, often leading to an explosion.
So, what do they all have in common? In most cases, a substantial change in interests, personality, etc. Things like death, divorce, separation, or other big changes wreak havoc on our emotions. It can bring people together, make them stronger and create more intimate/close relationships. It can cause people to look at the bigger picture, force them to realize what they really value. For instance, when my brother passed away this last year, something interesting happened. His current girlfriend and his last two ex-girlfriends grew closer, forging a bond that can only be created by looking past something that, had he still been alive, would not have been considered possible.
But the other end of the spectrum is equally powerful, and not so pretty. Too often, pain can drive people apart. Instead of bonding over shared pain, what was once a happy relationship can turn ugly. Fingers are pointed like guns, emotions explode, and in all the pain and confusion, people can forget what really matters. The emotions caused by grief can get so loud that the bigger picture is forgotten. The people who stand right in front of someone pale in comparison to the person they lost.
Of course, these are only the more common products of grief. They can be experienced in various levels and doses. It all depends on the people. Everyone goes through grief differently, unpredictably, but I believe there is something that every version has in common. Change. When the life a person lives changes, that person changes too. They adapt.
Whatever the change is, expected or not, needed or not, it happened. We might not get a say in what happens to us, but we do choose what we take from it. We can surrender to the pain, ignore everything else. We can numb it, explode. Or we can choose to learn, to take a deep breath, to focus on what matters no matter how much it hurts. It is hard, and the pain may never go away. But now is not always. It might feel like life will never get better, but this is just a chapter in a bigger story. A long chapter, yes, but one long chapter does not mean a book isn’t worth reading. Just like you can’t judge a book on its cover, you can’t judge a lifetime on a moment.