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Moving Forward in Grief: Types and Timelines

Updated: Apr 16

Grief is not a linear process to get through. So many times I have heard people share in frustration, “I thought I DID this already” For most of us. it is more spherical. We experience many feelings, thoughts, interruptions, joys, crashes, throughout the same day or even simultaneously. We roll around it or with it. I hear, "When will things feel normal? I can't imagine it." We wonder how long it will take. We may get surprised ten years later when something overwhelms us as if it were yesterday. We can feel isolated, disjointed. Restoring a sense of wholeness may also be mysterious. How do we move forward in grief, learn our Selves and our worlds now that so much seems to have changed? Are there types of grief and timelines that are ok or not ok?

In my practice, no time more than in recent years, have I found people feeling so alone in their grief. Is this about changes in family, spiritual, and society structures? Who can say really. Finding helpful resources for the raw, innermost experiences of grief from loss or betrayals, no matter how recent or long ago this has happened, is allowing a path to understanding mind, body, spirit steps forward. The very important thing to remember is: There is a way to embrace life after loss, to heal and engage happiness again. And, if you allow, in tiny or large steps, there is

Forward does not mean things go back to anything before. We are not the same. Forward is asking, Who am I now? Learning where and how this loss becomes part of your whole being and life. What is it to go forward? And what if going forward seems too much? Sometimes, anything and everything might be feel much, even feelings themselves.

Let’s start wherever you are, together.

The raw, inner places of grief as we explore, are not always about the stages of grief, which can seem so tidy in their labels of denial, rage, acceptance, etc, or the more therapeutic speak of grief, as in anticipatory, traumatic, complex, etc. We sometimes need to BE with the exploration. What is that universal and yet most personal conversation, what is the invitation for the rich conversation your soul is aching for you to accept? The inner and outer conflicts, and paths to wholeness from the swirl as we move between the loss and the feeling of being anchored in our self again can be one of the greatest challenges we face in our lifetimes.

Some of these losses can be from:

  1. death of a loved one

  2. a diagnosis of a chronic or terminal nature

  3. the loved one or diagnosis can be for ourselves, a friend, a life partner, a work space person, an identity, an animal companion

  4. the loss or betrayal can come from other areas of life: the end of employment/career, a collapse or separation from family relationships or friends, a divorce, adult children dynamics, and so on...

  5. society: social roles, environmental grief, feeling despair, grief, and anxiety and disenfranchised or displaced in your circles or the world itself, over the earth, cultural fractures

Pause, like the comfort a cup of tea provides. Know you are not as alone as you may feel.

There is a difference in grief, from sadness, loss, sorrow, bereavement, although they may overlap or seem very similar. Being able to tune in, with kindness, self-compassion, to these differences, will help you care for yourself or support someone you love, tenderly, and search out ideas and the kinds of resources that are available as you stay current with the waves and needs you have.

GRIEF: n. the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person. Grief is often distinguished from bereavement and mourning. Not all bereavements result in a strong grief response, and not all grief is given public expression (see disenfranchised grief next). Grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. Intense grief can become life-threatening through disruption of the immune system, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. Grief may also take the form of regret for something lost, remorse for something done, or sorrow for a mishap to oneself.

I myself, have experienced pericarditis in grief, and temporary, localized amnesia, and other personal crashes. I was thankful for the care I received and the resources I accessed. Even when we are well-trained, with all these great skills and knowledge, at the end of the day, we are simply people who love. When we are in the thick of it, maybe the training I had was helpful in giving me the awareness to ask for help when I needed to and to source what kind of help, and what kinds of thoughts and feelings to not take at face value but as messengers for my overall state. Even still, these were dark, lonely, frightening times, and not something I believe anyone can truly walk out of alone.

Disenfranchised Grief: n. grief that society (or some element of it) limits, does not expect, or may not allow a person to express. Examples include the grief of parents for stillborn babies, of teachers for the death of students, and of nurses for the death of patients. People who have lost an animal companion are often expected to keep their sorrow to themselves, especially after a period of time goes by, but what if the loss is still overcoming? Here is a youtube where I share about the loss of my dog. Maybe you can relate, or maybe it will help someone understand how similar or powerful these losses are. Disenfranchised grief may isolate the bereaved individual from others and thus impede recovery. Also called hidden grief.

We have come to understand that this in not exclusively a human experience. We see it in whales, we see it in birds, we see it in the cats and dogs we live with. This is a deep sorrow, and an inner space that we may or may not show outwardly. It is timeless, experienced universally through all ages, continents, oceans, airspaces, cultures.

I know I am repeating myself, but it warrants repeating: We are never as alone as we may feel or believe.

Please let the knowledge that this is a universal, timeless mind, body, spirit, richly faceted spectrum be an actual comfort as a way of knowing we are all connected in the moments we may feel completely alone. There is a Buddhist practice called Tonglen, to envision the possibility of others feeling what you are feeling right now, anywhere in the world, how many people may be feeling this, and feel into that enormity. What would you wish them to feel? Send that to them. Imagine what they would wish you to feel, and feel them sending it to you.

I have felt deep grief in my losses and much of my career has been companioning people and even some animals in their grief. I have studied it from many mind, body, spirit perspectives. It is as powerful as it feels. It commands, inspires, believes, lies, steals, manipulates, destroys, heals, surprises, invites, manifests. We tend to believe that grief is a primarily an emotional beast, but grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions that are very important to understand or at minimum give a nod to. Throughout my decades of experience and expertise, I will companion and guide some understanding and care in these areas if you feel I can be of support to you.

The taboo of death, grief, and the ways it rocks our worlds needs to be lifted in mind, body, spirit in order for us to be whole in our lives, to embrace living.

There are messages we have woven within us from our families, communities, society, maybe even our religious teachings (whether or not we practice them actively or they are our root traditions), that can define how we perceive rules of grief, mourning, guilt, timelines, expression, right-wrong, ritual, so many aspects of our emotions, thoughts, actions, conversations, behaviors...

Let’s challenge these inner spaces in the between of what is grief and the invitation it creates in restoring our wholeness as our home, regardless of our circumstances and including our loss. We can embrace loss, change as part of life in a way that prepares us for the experiences and challenges we all will inevitably face, and learn to support our selves, each other in a kind, compassionate manner that heals, embraces, brings peace.

Contact me by email for support or questions. It is also important to remember there is a community of services, online and in person available to support any of us in these times of grief. These supports can be conventional or unconventional, creative, spiritual, therapeutic, nature-based, physical. We may feel disjointed in these times, but we can still be the expert on ourselves, catch a still moment, check in and decide what we may need most, and lean in. I am here should you like to get in touch.

Above is a link to a YouTube where I share my recent experience of the loss of my long time companion dog. It may be helpful to put words to many aspects of your own experience, before during and after your own loss, whether similar or different, it is a start. Finding ways to tap into our experience is a part of the healing process, even if you feel there is no one there to hear it. It is your story, your experience, your language, and also very much a universal experience. All through time, every culture, every being has experiences of love, loss, death, betrayal, beginning again. How we go through it, what our expectations are, how we allow for the waves of it over time, can be very different. Again, no matter what grief or loss you are challenged with, you are never as alone as you may feel.

I am here to walk these times with you.

In Kindness,

Dr. Birdi Sinclair

Spiritual Guide, Peace Coach

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  • Grief is a natural response to many experiences of loss, disruption, change, illness, identity, political and societal causes, and many other circumstances. All are welcome of course. As much as there are differences, there are also parallels. It is also important to seek out a variety of resources and supports that are compatible to your particular needs. Occasionally I host grief support groups. They may be general or in focus area, such as animal companion grief, identity, betrayal, death, chronic illness, divorce... If you have an interest in attending a grief support group, please email me. If there is enough interest in an area, I will create one. Thank you.

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