Expanding our Grief Language

Abby EmbryUncategorized

Last week we discussed the topic of loneliness, specifically related to the grief many are feeling right now due to isolation and social distancing. I proposed in my blog the possibility that what we are feeling is not necessarily loneliness, but instead longingness. This was my attempt at expanding our use of language to fully describe or encompass the complexity of feelings people are having right now. In times such as this, we often hear the word “unprecedented,” meaning, this has never happened before. In unprecedented times, we create new words, new wisdom, and new forms of coping. Unprecedented times are incredibly painful, but they come with an abundance of growth and creativity as well.

With that said, I want to take a minute however to circle back to the word loneliness, and to fully affirm this feeling as real and valid. Maybe what you are not feeling right now is not best described as longingness, what if it is loneliness? Loneliness can be accompanied with a feeling of abandonment or rejection. As social creatures, rejection or abandonment is a terribly distressing feeling; it eats at the core of our identity. Layered on top of loneliness is the feeling of anger, fear, and sadness as well. In grief, when we have experienced a loss, especially in death, it is very real and valid to feel anger in your situation. Sometimes you may feel that you have been abandoned, especially when your plans with your loved one and your envisioned future has changed.

I want to offer in this reflection a reminder that if someone’s description of your feelings in grief are not congruent with how you feel about them, that does not mean your feelings are wrong. It is okay to reject that description, to push against it, and to name how you are feelings with existing words, or new language or metaphors you create. Understanding grief is something we are all working on together, and we have to help one another along in doing so. Understanding grief is not a time to reduce or summarize, it cannot be wrapped up in a neat package. It is truly at time to add, to expand, and to layer on as many words or feelings language as we can, in knowing we cannot possibly fully understand the mystery of death and loss.

So, as you reflect on the layers of your emotions, try not to reduce. Try to name, acknowledge, and expand. In reducing, you only limit yourself. In expanding you have the hope of growth and change. Are you feeling loneliness or longingness in your grief? Are you experiencing both? Maybe neither of these words mean anything to you. If so, what words would you use to describe the feeling of loss in death, or in the isolation of a pandemic? Share your comments here.

Tomorrow we will do an activity together which will require us to name our feelings. If you are joining the group call, please bring with you at least two uninflated balloons, or something like them. Get creative if you do not have balloons. The goal is to have something which is difficult to juggle. In the very least, bring two blank sheets of paper and a pencil with you and we can try to simulate this activity together over the zoom call.

Join me for our Touchpoint group on Tuesday at 2 PM. It generally lasts about one and a half hours.

Click the link below for more information on how to join us, everyone is welcome, no registration required. If you would like to schedule one-on-one support with me via Zoom, please email me at bereavement@williamsburghospice.org

https://mailchi.mp/7a65a64d9bef/virtualsupportgroup

Take care,

Abby Embry

Chaplaincy Director

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