The bleak and lonesome landscape you inhabit when you’ve lost someone you love is intensely personal. However, despite the individual differences in everyone’s situations, navigating life after a loss has many universal truths as well. Knowing that others are experiencing the same thing somehow makes us feel “normal” in a time that is anything but.
Navigating Grief founder Joan Hitchens shares her list of things that are common to most grief experiences and the things that are unique to each individual, influencing their journey through their time of loss.
Top 10 Universal Truths about Grief
1. Grief is a normal response when someone you love dies. Even the anguishing ‘I can’t breathe. Will I ever survive?’ feeling.
2. There will be good days and bad days. The roller coaster is a real phenomenon.
3. Someone will say something to offend you (usually unknowingly) or just say nothing at all.
4. Anticipating landmark dates is almost always more difficult than the day itself.
5. Exhaustion and desire to sleep will wax and wane; insomnia is very common, too.
6. You will tell your story multiple times as part of actively grieving.
7. You learn who true friends are and what friendship means to you.
8. Crying or choking up unexpectedly is to be expected.
9. Time is subjective.
10. You will look for signs to connect with your loved one after the loss.
Bonus universal grief: Brain fog and memory lapses are real and may continue longer than you expect.
Top 10 Individual Influences on your Grief
1. The circumstances of loss, such as sudden or foreseeable, violent or peaceful, impact your grieving.
2. The words you tell yourself about the loss.
3. Your sense of responsibility for the circumstances of the death.
4. The relationship you had with the one you lost. It can range from loving to toxic.
5. Who you surround yourself with for support, and things they say to you. Seek out good listeners!
6. How you care for yourself, responding to the effects of grief on your physical well-being.
7. The things you do to preserve, honor and remember your loved one starting from day one, lasting for years.
8. Your daily physical proximity to the one you lost. Grief differs when a loved one lived across the country versus in your own house.
9. Your role in the person’s life and you in theirs.
10. Your attention to the grief process. Mindfulness counts. This ranges from becoming overly-busy to long-term stagnation.
Bonus influence: Your history with death, including what you learned early in life and the number of losses you have experienced.
For more thoughts from Joan Hitchens related to the universality of the grieving process, see her article, “Is My Grief Normal?”