We asked our therapists Nida and Rafath about grief, what their personal stories and experiences around grief are and as therapists how they would define grief for the people they work with. We also asked them what they believe is important in the process of experiencing grief.

When we hear the word ‘grief’ the most dominant idea and the single story around it is losing someone or loss of a loved one, but in reality it’s so  much more than that.

Nida says that there is a streamlined idea about grief that it’s the loss of someone or the death of someone. Grief however shows up in our lives very differently and in a very nuanced way.

-Memories of the past and re-living the past in itself  and this sometimes can bring grief.

-Sometimes people having a loss of self, like new mothers who have given birth to a baby who have lived a very different life before giving birth, they also experience grief because there is a sense of loss of a previous self.

-Sometimes grief shows up as losing authenticity in oneself, that one needs to succumb to a version of reality because the world does not accept them. Such as a queer person or a transperson’s experience of loss of authenticity when they are marginalised for being who they are.

-Sometimes when we read a story for a very long time and when we resonate with a certain character or with the story, it might show up as grief when the story ends.

-Rafath points out the grief she as a young person felt at the end of the Harry Potter series and Nida adds to this by talking about some of the ways young children may experience grief she says “you know children can experience grief when maybe their favorite toy is lost or even change can cause grief for somebody, just a change in environment or place, loss of things, anything can show up as grief, there is varied lived experience of grief. “  

-Rafath adds, “when a show that you’ve been watching closely ends, everyone feels like a part of them is lost suddenly, there is an experience of grief even in that.

-Rafath and Nida also reflect on how end of  a relationship or losing friends in some way or form is also grieving in a way  and further that who we were in that relationship, there is a loss of sense of self as well. When someone loses a job or moves or shifts from one place to another or changes schools, they have to let go of their friends this also is the experience of grief.

A companion:  not always present but always there

Our therapists also reflect on the intimate journey of grief in their own lives, they talk about grief as a companion, not always present but as always been there. They talk about how grief shows up sometimes, in different ways, as depression, sometimes as anger or tears that show up randomly because of a very felt sense of grief that they are experiencing.

One wonders though if all sadness is grief then?

Are we saying all difficult emotions are experiences of grief? Rafath and Nida try to deconstruct this idea. They say that grief is felt. It is very nuanced and very personal. It’s difficult to say that one person is experiencing grief or not just by looking at them, or seeing some signs or environmental factors, it’s so much more than that. Nida particularly also clarifies “I don’t have the authority to call the other person’s experience as grief. They are the ones who experience it and they might be the ones to identify that for themselves.”

Both therapists also reflect on the structures and systems we live in. That our communities, religion, sometimes capitalism, and even science puts a timeline on grief. Constantly defining what is “normal” and what is not. They point to the need for watching how the ways of the world creep in and cauterise, traumatise and pathologize our experiences of grief. That we need to be mindful of stepping away from this and honoring our bodies need to grieve when it needs and thrive when it does.

Grieving is not just about sadness

Our therapists also reflect on the sweetness of grief.  That grieving is not just about sadness. That in grieving we may remember fondly, we may recalibrate from these experiences to live close to what we believe our lives can be. That we may story with pleasure and pain. The very way of life every moment. That therapy offers the space for this but that we can create spaces of care with friends, family and also choosing rituals from our religion that speaks to us.

In our podcast ‘A Little More Closer’ which is a series of conversations that our therapists at Pause for Perspective have started Nida and Rafath talk more about this topic. What is  ‘‘Grief Shared is Grief Processed’? They talk about what happens when one shares with another the intimacy of pain. Listen to know more on this topic.

This article was transcribed by Rafath and Edited by Aarathi Selvan