Why can’t I just get over it?

There is a myth that grief is short-lived and that when something bad happens we should be able to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and move on. Some people are better at carrying the illusion of being able to do this than others and we are usually more critical of ourselves.

When you see the families of victims of violence who are struggling with the realization that they will never see their loved ones again, nobody is questioning their grief or insisting that they get over it.  In fact, some people might use an event like that as further proof that they should be able to move on from their own losses — “those people have something to really grieve about, not me.”

When it comes to our own loss, we are less forgiving. We expect to be able to get over it and move on.  It is rarely that easy even if we do manage to show up to work with a smile. The grieving process is not a straight clean road. It’s a barrage of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  People fluctuate from one stage to another without any chronology. One day you may feel accepting but the next you may be right back at denial or anger.  It is painful and can last a lifetime.

So how do you know when Grief is normal and when you need help?

The grieving process is normal. Allowing yourself to experience the different stages is healthy. However, if you find yourself experiencing prolonged symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if it is negatively impacting your personal or professional relationships, therapy may help.  It is possible to grieve and also experience and enjoy life and human connection.  If it feels like the weight of grief is too much for this to be a reality, it may be worth getting some therapeutic support.

Loss is often traumatic. When something traumatic happens, our brain doesn’t always process it fully and we can feel stuck.   The levels of serotonin in the brain are depleted and we unconsciously perpetuate a chemical depression by feeling unable to engage in healthy self-care such as healthy eating, sleep and exercise.  Often people feel like they should be stuck in this painful place because the person they are grieving can’t be there at all.  Letting go of grief may feel like letting go of the person they are grieving .  F.eeling joy may feel like a threat to the person or people they are grieving.

Would that person want this for you?  Would they want you to honor their memory by being stuck in the pain of their loss?

Sometimes even individuals experiencing normal healthy grief find that they need to reach out for additional support from someone who is not connected to them or the loss in any way.  If you find yourself asking “why can’t I just get over it,” a therapist may be able to help you determine if there is something else going on that needs to be addressed such as depression, anxiety or symptoms of trauma.  If nothing else, a therapist may be able to help you navigate the grieving process and give yourself a little more room to grieve.

While loss is a natural part of life, that reality does not negate the pain of losing people you care about who have become a meaningful part of your life.  It’s important to remember that the grief does not perpetuate the memory.

You can feel joy and grief simultaneously without taking away from the depth of the loss.  And it may take some time to get to a place where joy is even possible.  Grief is complex and layered.

If you find that the people in your life are frustrated by your grief or telling you that you need to move on, your grief may feel like a burden to the people who care about you.  But their reaction is not really about you — it’s about their own discomfort sitting with your pain.

You may never “get over it,” but  a therapist can help you move through it.

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