Grief is a complex feeling. Though many people associate it with death and dying or other tragedy, you can grieve due to various types of losses throughout your life. The emotion and its effects can strike out of nowhere and be completely unexpected. Even during events that seem to be positive, it’s possible to feel a loss of something. These emotions are brought on by the various changes you encounter as you go through a transition period. Let’s look at the importance of taking time to grieve these losses and how to bounce back from them while moving onto new adventures and life stages.
Reasons for Grief
There are lots of reasons you could go through grief, beyond those related to losing a loved one or experiencing a tragedy. Even something as seemingly average as a new job can cause you to feel sad for the loss of your former identity, your past co-workers and the comfort of your previous daily routine. You can grieve for various reasons connected to relationship changes, as well. A breakup might lead you to grieving what you had with that special person and what might have been. You might even feel loss related to positive changes in a relationship, like moving in together or getting married. It’s normal to grieve for the loss of your independent living status and your previous way of life, as well as the freedom of living without as many compromises. Even moving through life stages like graduating from college and getting your first job can trigger these loss-related issues. You might feel the loss of the security you felt as a student. It’s likely you would mourn the separation from your group of long-time friends.
Stages of Grief
These types of grief are actually experienced in very similar ways as when there is a death or tragedy in your life, just to a different extent. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is known for the development of the stages of grief in her renowned book, “On Death and Dying.” You’re probably familiar with these stages. They are:
These stages provide a framework for understanding all sorts of grief, including the ones listed above.
Grief Stages Related to Change
These stages aren’t neatly linear. They don’t always go in this exact order, and there’s usually no clean delineation from one to the next. You might experience a couple of them at the same time. It’s also possible to regress and go back to a phase you thought you’d left behind. However, they do give us a nice guideline for how to process grief related to changes in our lives. The stages themselves are actually defense mechanisms, and they should be moved through successfully in order to come to a place of resolution regarding change. The ultimate goal is to accept your new way of life so that you can begin to focus on living it, rather than ruminating on the past.
If you think you’re having trouble moving through these stages while grieving your past life, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a professional therapist to help you. I’ll talk more about that in a future blog post. For now, I hope you understand that the emotions you have during times of stress and change are normal. You will get through them.