Wikipedia states that: Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement often refers to the state of loss, and grief to the reaction to loss.
During grief people quite often feel stuck in a kind of darkness, a weird void whilst the rest of the world and life continues outside of the grief bubble. People experiencing grief may find comfort with others experiencing that same grief, but if not, it can feel like a lonely tunnel.
Grief can be experienced as a response to any kind of loss – although it is largely linked with death, one can grieve a broken relationship, friends that moved away or even changes in their circumstances.
When I was 18 my first car, (an orange mini) was hit by a petrol tanker – with me in it. The car took all the impact of the crash and it was “killed instantly” whilst I was largely ok.
I was in shock for a good week afterwards, not least because it was a terrible accident in which if a few minor factors had have worked out differently, I would have been much more seriously injured. However there was also a great sense of grief. My first car had represented many things to me. It was the source of my freedom, a symbol of my adulthood, a representation that I was part of a club that not all of my friends had been able to pass the test to get into. I’d used my hard earned cash to care for it, save up for it even though it was largely worthless in monetary terms. It was also something I had taken great pride in. I kept it clean and fixed it when it wouldn’t start.
The days following its “death” my grief also came from the fact that I had taken good care of this piece of machinery and it had in it’s final moments taken the full force of the accident and protected me.
Yes I know it was just a car – everyone said this – but I still felt this pain within as if someone had dropped a brick on my stomach. I randomly got upset, kept thinking of the good times and getting upset about those too, I was withdrawn, stressed and I didn’t sleep well for a good while.
During the days afterwards, I had arrangements and preparations as if it were a funeral! I had to contact the insurers, the company of the tanker, the DVLA, go to the hospital and get a physical assessment done.
I largely think of myself as a fairly practical strong willed person so I know what you’re thinking! It was just a car!
My point is though that people can experience grief for a variety of different circumstances. There will be common themes to all grief but everyone will react in their own personal way. Everyone too will find comfort in different ways. Here are some of what worked for me:
Sort “stuff” – It helped me to get through the technical parts of the process as fast as possible. So the sorting bits of paper, clearing out of belongings and putting those in a new home.
Gather the memories that are important to keep – This doesn’t necessarily mean only positive memories. For example, my old mini had the petrol cap stolen and it was a real pain as I was scared to drive without a petrol cap but had to drive to get a new one. Some years later my mum had all the trees from her house cut down and in amongst the branches she found my petrol cap! I’ve kept it because whenever I have a hair-brain idea about one day getting a classic car, it reminds me that my old car, despite how much I loved it – was insecure and often vandalized. Remembering (and not just remembering good stuff) can be important if you are grieving a relationship break up. It can remind you that it wasn’t wonderful all of the time and means you will only have to grieve the relationship and not the person you split up with too.
Remember that the pain goes – Although there will be good days and bad, generally over time, the pain goes and you start to feel, become and act more normal again. You’ll take as much time is right for you and even though in the future you may look back and still feel the sadness, you will get better.