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 on arrival. 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 didn’t 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 the empty chair before me.

I looked up, I 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. Nothing tangible, so nothing breakable thank God! All safe here in this room, in my mind.

A photograph of you, rested on a mantel. Grief didn’t recognise you, her eyes didn’t soften at your smile, 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 ( that 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’, to be picked and chosen at my leisure. They weren’t tangible gifts, she doesnt do tangible. However, her gifts appeared in the most unlikely of places, and ignited every emotion within me. The intense anger looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror 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 rhubarb pie, and ‘return’ it down the throat of the person who had uttered the words that forced my mind, heart and soul into utter conflict. ‘ 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’ – I hate rhubarb pie.

Actually, in fairness, Grief was the only one who said it like it was (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 him, or how precious he was to me. Loss was an exaggerated version of myself. He hit the floor quicker than I did! And remained there! Loss wept incessantly. On his stomach, on the floor, pale and helpless. Grief used to look at Loss like she wanted to put him out of his misery, and many times, I respected her for holding back! 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, they were the first to infiltrate my thoughts, to observe my sadness, the effects of your absence. They didn’t care, they didn’t want this for me either, they were indifferent to that part of the process.

Sometimes I wonder if they were even aware that, at that point, they were the process! Sometimes I felt that I was safe to observe from that cloud filled distance between us. They had nothing to be scared of. Sometimes Grief seemed familiar, similar to me in my younger days, my stronger days. Loss was just out of it! Making no sense at all.

Thank God for Time.

Time was a different fish.

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

I seldom acknowledged it, I was too upset – Grief couldn’t stand Time, the atmostphere always changed when Time let itself. Grief didn’t 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, Loss was still floored, so there was no real competition in fairness!

Time was kind to me, and as weeks and months passed, I felt that kindness, not pushy, just there. Time cared, and eventhough, like Grief, it didn’t want to hold me,  it was a different kind of rejection.

It was a strange day when Time opened the door and gestered to Grief to leave. Grief didn’t protest, as often, I believe she does! I looked down at Loss, he was as surprised as I! I don’t know when he had risen from the floor to stand just behind me, but I suspect that it wasn’t in that moment.

I was indifferent, but at least present. Time just seemed to know. I was glad to see Time take the seat that Grief had warmed so well. Somehow I felt it knew that although the dance had ceased, the music had continued to play, albeit low. Time sat quietly, and like Grief, never spoke. Words still had no place here. Not in this room. I had locked the door to my own soul and had thrown away the key to be alone.  I had inadvertently isolated myself with Loss, Grief and Time.

Time placed that missing key on the table before me, and gently pushed it closer to my side, then, sat forward, had some tea and looked at me for God knows what –  an epiphany! I looked away. I didn’t want to see that the mantel was drifting away, or that my treasured frame was fading, and your beautiful smile that kept you here yearned to leave, to be free of my torture. And the tear that was always threatening to fall, had finally lost its will.

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

Something had changed . . . ‘

I know how you feel. Things will get better. x

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