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What we learned about grief: Reflections from Penn State students

The following are reflections from a counselor education grief and loss class at Penn State on what they learned about grief. Thirteen students contributed to the list:

● A loss can encompasses so much more than just the death of a loved one. Everyone’s grieving process is different and it’s definitely not linear. It’s more like a roller coaster (but everyone is on a different roller coaster). Some days are better than others.

● Grief — a word often avoided but demands your full attention and diminishes your capabilities daily. Grief will come in many aspects of life outside of death sometimes with stronger and more limiting symptoms however your loss and your grief are unique, and worth being shared. Bring yourself to the silence and the white space that you so much fear. Provide yourself the opportunity to carry your grief in a new light, never moving on but moving forward. Allowing your unique goodbye.

● Grief, we all go through it, yet we all hesitate to talk about and even run away from it. It has no rules and no concept of time, feeling like it consumes and controls you and leaving you to feel alone. As time goes on, and you relearn to live with your loss, you realize, grief is only a small part of you.

● We are not the same after grief and loss have touched our lives. Yet it remains one of the hardest things to talk about. I would propose that we all create a little bit more space for each other’s grief and wrap our arms around each other’s losses. I’m sure if we did, that grief and loss would start being a little less lonely.

● To deny grief is to repress or ignore an important loss which can have long-term impact on an individual.

● I learned that grief can be expressed in many ways. I also learned that silence can be a powerful thing. It gives the person the floor to express anything and everything that may contribute or cause them grief. I believe that silence is also a way of saying you are here.

● Grief sticks around for a while, it’s not something that just “goes away” or that you “get over” — you will learn new ways of living with this grief.

● People can grieve for a long time; healing is a lifelong journey. I think one of the values of dying with dignity is to trust the person.

● Grief is to be felt rather than to be cured. Meanwhile, grief entails a combination of feelings rather than merely sadness and sorrow. As death is not the opposite of life, grief is not the opposite of joy.

● Grief is not linear, grief is disjointed. Grief does not have a timeline, grief comes in waves. Grief is not the same for everyone, grief looks a little different for each person.

● Grief and loss is everywhere in daily life. Losing is remembering. We never only lose one thing. Although we are talking about death, what we are really talking about is life. The entrance to knowing the meaning about life is death. We find existence through elimination.

● Grief and loss is something we all experience from a loss of a loved one, to a loss of identity, and even multiple or complex losses.

● I think that because it is so painful and uncomfortable for the people experiencing it and those around others who experience it, we tend to ignore it, avoid it, or even make it go away with sometimes even well-meaning responses like, “At least you have others who love and support you,” “They are in a better place now,” or even “It has been three years, you still are struggling with that?”

● Grief is a way to acknowledge the loss as it reflects our true feelings. Grieving does not mean we are stuck in the past; rather it empowers us to move forward. Seemingly, words were no longer needed. Being with each other became a great way to show that “we are here with you, and we care about you.” Sometimes, silence is better than words.

● Grief is like water to the flower. Grief doesn’t need to hide or be held back. When the grief can come out from the circle and be fully part of one’s life, one can make it bloom again.

● I think what makes it so powerful is allowing the space to listen and be present in someone’s story and life without ever asking for more information. I think we often become too involved in wanting to know all the details when that is often not the most helpful to the person grieving.

● Grief has no endpoint, which may indicate a sense of hopelessness, but I also found the message comforting because then I know that I do not need to struggle to get over my grief, but accept the fact that I will live with it the rest of my life.

This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
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