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The Weight of Grief

by Sarah Schufreider, MSW, LCSW

“Grief is like lifting 100lb weights at the gym”…or at least that’s what I was told by the deacon at a recent funeral I attended.

While the analogy seemed a bit silly at first, it made more sense once the speaker explained further. He said, “Grief is heavy. Just like when you go to the gym for the first time, 100 lbs feels like an impossible load to carry. But if you keep going to the gym,  over time, and with hard work, you will eventually be able to carry the weight more easily. The amount of weight doesn’t change, but your ability to carry it does. However, just like in real life, some days are going to be challenging, even when you put in the work. Just like being sick, tired, or stressed can make it harder to workout at your peak performance level, the same thing can happen with carrying grief. Some days it will be heavy, and that is part of the process.”

Grief as a Wave

Grief is an inevitable part of life, but one that is often misunderstood. Many people have heard of the 5 Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and believe that grief follows a linear path. Unfortunately, grief isn’t linear and doesn’t look the same for everyone. More often, grief is like a wave. The intensity of the grief will peak and crest at different times. Sometimes the waves of grief come fast and furious. Other times, it can be calm for a long stretch, only to knock you over unexpectedly. For this reason, grief can be a very difficult thing to understand and manage. If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss, here are some helpful tips.

Tips to Deal with Grief

  • Remember that no one grieves the exact same way. Even if people are grieving the exact same loss, the way in which they do it may be radically different. Try to be gentle with yourself and honor your individual process without placing expectations on how you “should” be grieving
  • Let people know what you need. Unfortunately, no one had a crystal ball to see inside your head to know your thoughts and feelings. Most times, people want to be helpful but are unsure of how to be of service. Tell them! Whether it is having someone do your laundry, walk your dog, take your kids to school. Try to allow others to care for you so that you have space to tend to your own needs.
  • There is no timeline for grief. The idea that time heals all does not apply to grief. For some, grief will last a lifetime. Therefore, it is helpful to think about finding a way to move FORWARD WITH your life with the grief instead of trying to move on from it. Be gentle with yourself.

How to Support a Person Who Is Grieving

  • Allow them to talk about their loss: One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten. Say the loved one’s name and allow the grieving person to share all their feelings, stories, and memories about their loved one. It is ok if they cry.
  • Be present with them, even if you don’t know what to say. Many people disengage from grieving people because they don’t know what to say. It is ok to say “I don’t know what to say, but I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or, even just staying silent and just physically being present with someone is very meaningful.
  • Be careful in using platitudes. People are often well-meaning in trying to make the grieving person feel better. But kind-hearted statements like, “At least he isn’t suffering now” or religious statements like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” can often feel cold and insensitive to mourners.
  • Just do it. Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can help you?”, if you see a need, just do it (with their permission, of course). Whether it is making them a cup of tea, mowing their lawn, or bringing them dinner, anything you can do to ease the day to day burdens is helpful.
For more information on how therapy can help you or a loved one cope with grief, reach out to us at [email protected]
If you liked this AMK Monthly Insight, check out:

Finding Support Through Community by Gwendolyn Tsuji, MA, LCPC

The Difficulty and Beauty of Forgiveness by Rebecca Roberts, MA, LCPC