The final semester of my senior year in college was exciting. Graduation was right around the corner, I was rocking at my internship with Parenting Magazine, and I had landed a paid internship at Newsday for after graduation.
Then, my grandfather passed away and my life changed.
Until then, I hadn’t experienced such a drastic loss. I had gone through a couple of breakups in the past, but those weren’t nearly as painful as losing my grandfather through a host of medical complications.
Even though many people were empathetic, I also had a lot of heat from my family, friends and colleagues. They thought I was being insensitive for not outwardly sobbing at every waking moment, or for focusing on school and work instead of mourning his death.
If only they knew that I was grieving by trying to get back into routine, that this was the way that I could cope with the loss. I hadn’t fully processed the situation, and the effects of his loss hadn’t fully settled.
When someone is grieving a loss, whether it’s from a breakup or the death of a loved one, the worst thing you can do is judge someone for not crying or breaking down over the loss. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the different types of grief and different ways people grieve.
Susan Berger, a researcher and practitioner in mental health, states in her book, The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing After the Loss of a Loved One, that the five stages of grief may not help those who are grieving after the loss.
Denial, anger and confusion is how a person who grieves in this way feels most of the time, and they may not even know how it has affected their life. Berger states that a nomad griever has not dealt with or resolved their grief.
I believe that many of us grieve as nomads immediately after a loss, because we often have an element of shock and disdain. After the death of my grandfather, I didn’t cry or get angry at G-d for taking him away from us. Instead, I was in shock, and had a mental block.
Grieving in this way is normal and it’s not surprising that people continue to live their lives as if nothing has happened. However, after a certain amount of time, I suggest that you seek professional help from a counselor to sort out your thoughts and feelings.
A memorialist grieves by creating shrines or rituals in order to honor the deceased. They may dedicate a song, a place, a garden or art in their name. Visiting the deceased’s grave and leaving flowers is another ritual that you may practice if you grieve as a memorialist.
After my grandfather passed away, my family grieved as memorialists by visiting his grave at the cemetery for his birthday and important holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. We would usually leave flowers or some sort of relevant décor and pray together.
A normalizer grieves by putting their focus on friends, family and community. If you grieve as a normalizer, you focus on cultivating the relationships you have so that you can recreate or regain who and what you have lost.
I believe that this is the way that I grieved because my focus shifted from my career to focusing on nurturing the relationships in my life. I realized that there is much more to life than having a successful career, and I prioritized my personal life over that part.
A person who grieves by becoming an activist will try to use this loss to help those who are struggling through the same thing, usually by educating and empathizing with people. Whether it’s from a terminal illness or acts of violence, an activist will go out of their way to help them.
Losses from tragedies such as cancer, domestic violence or bullying, among others, may trigger the person grieving to contribute to making people aware of the dangers of the action. They can also look to promote other proactive ways to handle or to prevent it from getting worse or from happening.
You can start by joining a group that focuses on the cause of your loss, and be involved by contributing in different ways. Down the line, you can go big and start your own foundation specifically dedicated to your loved one.
A person who grieves by being a seeker usually reflects a lot their morals and beliefs, and looks into getting more connected through spiritual, philosophical or religious beliefs. They do this in order to create or find meaning in their lives.
I already had religious beliefs and had been attending church before I broke things off with my then-boyfriend, but I delved more deeply into them after the breakup and did a lot of self-reflecting on who I was and what I needed to do in order to choose my next boyfriend more wisely. It helped me to refocus and redefine my beliefs, not only as a Christian but also as a person.
If you don’t belong to a spiritual or religious community yet and you want this kind of connection, do your research, go to a meeting or a service and interact with the members to determine whether or not it’d be right for you. If you have established beliefs already, revisit and redefine them.
Grieving is a healthy process that you will and should go through after a loss, and there is no right way to grieve. Being educated on the different ways people grieve will help you to find a healthy way to process this tragic time of loss in your life.
How do you cope and grieve with loss? Do you grieve through any of these ways? Share your story and thoughts with us in the comment section!