Understanding Grief

A huge part of understanding grief is understanding that people react and process it very differently. There are different stages to grief, and they don’t follow particular order. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In my view, what is most important, is that you understand how YOU navigate and process the feelings that are difficult to understand. This is personality based, so one size really doesn’t fit all.

To help you to understand this process and how it might relate to you, I put some questions to Lisa O’Hara, a psychotherapist, who specialises in this subject matter.

Something to reflect on.


‘Grief never barged into my life.

It was as if she had always been there, a dormant cell, in the shadows, waiting to emerge when the despair button in my mind malfunctioned.

She didn’t introduce herself. I wasn’t sure of her role, or how she had got in,

nor did I care.

She was very casual, very unassuming, easy on my eyes – shadows are – she didnt demand anything of me.

Especially words.

Grief never burst in that door, she didn’t kick it down – she wasn’t looking for a victim, and being no hero, she didn’t come here to save me! She never had a bag of feel good factors that would help or offer relief.

She sauntered in, had a look at me, had a look around, and despite her obvious lack of interest, she dropped herself in an empty chair before me.

I looked up, and saw nothing that meant anything to me.

She wasn’t welcome here, I had long since realised that bargaining, especially with unfamiliar entities, was futile, completely futile!

She emerged from herself and took a look around my space, at MY stuff, MY untouchables, not tangible, and safe here in my mind.

A photograph of you, rested on the mantel. She didn’t recognise you, her eyes didn’t soften, that image didn’t impact her – the image that wounded a new part of me every time my eyes were drawn to it, didn’t impact her. Then, she never knew you, she never loved you. I wished I was her in those moments.

I can’t say that Grief wasn’t generous (being a double negative!) She would often leave me little gifts, as a cat would, just a little thing, something for myself.

She called them ‘phases’, they weren’t tangible gifts, she doesnt do tangible. However, her gifts appeared in the most unlikely of places, like when looking at my reflection in the bathroom and having an almost overwhelming urge (I’ll remove the word ‘almost’ when editing!) to smash the mirror and my reality into a billion pieces! Another strange urge was to morph a word or sentiment into a physical object, like a brick, and ‘return’ it down the throat of the person who had uttered it. ‘ Time is a great healer’, ‘She’s in a better place now’, ‘Remember the good times’, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, ‘She’d have loved this’, ‘if you need anything, A.N.Y T.H.I.N.G A.T A.L.L’

Actually, in fairness, Grief was the only one who said it like it is (for someone who didnt speak!). She was clear. ‘This is final, she’s not coming back, get to acceptance, I’ve somewhere to be.’ Grief never cared about me, she didn’t pretend to and I respected her for that on some level!

She didnt come to make things better.

She didn’t come to make things worse, she just showed up.

She wasn’t invited, she wasnt intrigued or interested, she had no desire to meet with Loss, to understand it, or how precious it was to me. Grief, if truth be told, always had somewhere to go.

They sat in front of me, I was alone. They walked around me, I was alone. They slept beside me, I was alone. Each morning I woke, Grief was the first to see my thoughts, my sadness, the effects of my Loss. She didn’t care, she didnt want this for me either, she was indifferent to that part of the process.

Sometimes I wonder if she was even aware that she was part of that process. Sometimes I felt that she was hiding within herself from something – and observing me from that safe distance. Sometimes she seemed familiar.

Thank God for Time.

Time was a different fish.

Time always turned up (time and time again!).

I seldom acknowledged her, I was too upset – Grief couldnt stand her, the atmostphere always changed when Time let herself in. Grief didnt seem to like change, or authority – or Time. Time always brought a cup of tea, I never drank it, grief always got to it first. Time was kind to me, not pushy, but there. Time cared, and eventhough, like grief, she didn’t want me to need her, it was a different kind of rejection.

It was a strange day when Time opened the door and gestered to grief to leave. Grief didnt argue. I was indifferent, but Time just seemed to know. I was glad to see her take the seat that grief had warmed so well for her. She sat quietly, and like grief, she never spoke. Words still had no place here. Not in this room. I had locked the door to my own soul and threw away the key to be alone. Isolated in thought with grief and Time.

Time placed that missing key on the table before us, and gently pushed it closer to my side. When, she sat forward, to pour herself some tea, I looked away. I didn’t want her to see that the mantel was drifting away, and my treasured frame, and my tear that was waiting to fall.

Or that, for some unknown reason, between that moment and this.

Something had changed . . . ‘


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