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Inward and Outward Grief Expectations

I've had the honor of being a support to my clients during deeply human experiences such as grief and bereavement. I often hear questions like this: “How can I make these feelings/thoughts go away sooner?”, and “How can I move past this stage?”, or the ever present, “Is this normal?”. When something unspeakable happens, it’s our inclination to try and find any semblance of rationalization. We may try to fit into a mold and grieve “properly”, as if that’s a feasible expectation.

I read the novel Remembering with Love – Messages of Hope for the First Year of Grieving and Beyond by Dr. Elizabeth Levang and Sherokee Ilse while working with a client whose husband of many years died from heart disease. I thought of her not only because of her recent and traumatic loss, but I resonate with her wanting to feel better more quickly than her mind and body could possibly allow. The book contains hundreds of voices and perspectives from people in different places on their grief journey. Each page is separated into three sections: thoughts or feelings from a person suffering loss, a paragraph typically providing validation and/or research, followed by an idea or message of hope. My client described the novel as being approachable and especially helpful during moments she was feeling isolated and alone.

As an example, I would like to share an excerpt found on page 124.

Crying is not a sign of weakness; tears demonstrate the depth of our love and our sorrow.”

Reflecting on this idea again helped me feel more connected to my Patti (“Grandmother” in

Tamil). I think about the times I’ve put on a façade to show the world I’m fine after a loss. Whether I create this pressure or feel it from outside of myself, it still hurts either way. I can express my loss and still have faith that I will be okay. My pain and level of emotion shows the significance of our relationship and the love I am able to give.

I believe grief and loss isn’t an illness that can be so easily cured away or placed on a specific timeline. All of the pressure we put ourselves or to grieve by others’ terms is detrimental to our healing and true freedom in the end. As a counseling intern, a first-gen immigrant, and someone with a chronic autoimmune condition, I’ve experienced grief in my own sizes and shades. Sometimes, nothing can lift that heavy feeling, but I give myself permission to be free of judgement and constraints on my journey. As I keep learning about myself and forming my counselor identity, this space is something I’ll always work to create for my loved ones and

every client.

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