Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to episode 42, titled “Five Surprising Sources of Grief.” When we first think of grief, we think of death. There are people who have grief hierarchies, placing death at the top as the most worthy grief event of our attention. I’m not that person. While death is disruptive, it’s often also peaceful. Basically, grief is nuanced, complicated, and capable of being many things to many people – including sneaky. So this week, I am going to do help you recognize places in your own life where grief may be hiding in plain sight.
Ask anyone grieving the loss of a loved one and they will tell you it is the most complicated pain a person can experience. The brain quietly tucks away the reality of the death, allowing them to survive the loss and figure out a new way to forge ahead. While we know loss is not only experienced after death, we must address the grief that enters our lives in surprising ways. Without restoration in these areas, we will fail to gain the emotional intelligence required to support ourselves through future losses.
The first place we may be surprised by grief is in our unmet expectations. I’m not saying we should sit Shiva every time our favorite seasonal coffee drink is sold out, but I do want to emphasize the importance of acknowledging our disappointment and missed expectations.
When we show up to a job interview, expecting to land a perfect position or find out that our significant other no longer desires to be so significant, our expectations of a future with those details deserve to be mourned. It may seem obvious when a romantic relationship ends, but even the loss of a friendship (online or in person) can be completely unexpected and jarring. Disappointment, as simple as it may seem, can wear us out and eventually lead to low, damn near hopeless expectations for our future. This is not a future of promise.
Speaking of promises, when they’re broken, they can cause big griefy emotions. Broken promises are sneaky source number two. Whether these are in the home, personal relationships, or even from politicians, a promise is a promise. Believing we can take someone at their word but then learning otherwise takes the hope placed in their promise and dashes it against the pavement. A broken promise breaks trust and leads to insecurity. Grieving the trust once carried in a relationship is how we become trusting again in future relationships. Ignoring the grief, or pretending we are just fine, is another mode of denial that robs us from the opportunity to grow in a new relationship or even to repair the one at risk.
Even professional relationships and the workplace can be a source of grief. The third surprising source of grief is workplace tension. Workplace tension creates so much unspoken pain because not only is our personhood on the line, but our livelihood as well. Being the person who identifies the disfunction or dangerous work environment can have unintended repercussions (and to be perfectly clear, it is never okay that a person demanding a safe environment is placed at greater risk of trauma). Grieving your autonomy and personal convictions, as they become minimized or even dismissed in the workplace, is necessary to prevent our character from being diminished as well. This is also the methodology we can stand on to push back against injustice, abuse, or workplace tension that is causing danger to others. We must also learn to identify areas of the field we work within that may be triggering unresolved grief from previous arenas.
The fourth surprising source of grief is one we all carry and hate to admit. It feels awkward to grieve at a graduation or a wedding. Grief over celebratory moments is often attributed to the lack of a specific person at the celebration. However, the loss of our life previously established deserves to be acknowledged. Like finishing a great novel, the end must come, but the good and bad memories are not to be ignored. Asking ourselves what we gain and believing in a hopeful future allows us to look back on our lives with fond remembrance, rather than simply wishing for the good old days or living with regrets. I believe it is quite common to find newly married couples carrying tremendous grief for their single life, previously unencumbered by sharing a budget or a bed with someone else.
And lastly, the fifth surprising source of grief is entertainment, media, and politics. You could even add social media to the list. Grieving over the loss of a celebrity or a fictional character is quite normal. We relate to them and see ourselves reflected in their stories. We take their stories personally and when lost to us, need to grieve. Pretending otherwise builds a wall between our heart and our emotions.
If you find that you are seeking happy, comedic entertainment only and fully avoiding anything that does not explicitly carry “good vibes,” there is a good chance you are in denial about grief on some level. This isn’t a bad thing – but becoming aware of this state of mind can lead you toward a path of restoration. Recognizing the trauma of the world around you – locally or globally – and understanding how changes impact your immediate life and your heart for others is how we become engaged citizens. Understanding another’s sorrow creates empathy, which is a crucial tool for managing our own grief as well.
Recognizing the grief as it manifests in each of these arenas would be ideal! But since we do not live in idealism, setting aside time to be physically quiet allows us to consider a time that feels unsettled. As a teenager, I remembered sobbing hysterically when Frank Sinatra passed away. I’d lost my grandfather earlier that same year, and after studying his music for so long as a jazz singer, his death felt personal. Taking the time to genuinely grieve the loss of an icon allowed me to walk through the sorrow of my grandfather’s passing as well.
It would be simple to explain away my tears for Sinatra as a simple trigger for my grandfather’s loss but minimizing our sorrow as a simple trigger diminishes their importance as real arenas of life where real emotions need attention. While we usually look for closure to end our suffering, what we really need is restoration. The idea of closure leads us to believe that grief needs to end for our future to be transformed, but anyone who has received an explanation for their loss still feels the weight of grief. This is normal, necessary, and powerful to recognize as we progress in our grief.
The pursuit of restoration, rather, allows us to expand our life around the grief as we navigate the complexity and learn to live with our loss. Reconciling our own actions in the event of a loss, such as a breakup or professional setting, restores perspective. We play a role in our own lives. This removes the concept of blame and instead, allows us to take responsibility for how we change our future regarding these types of loss.
We must avoid placing blame on ourselves in the face of a death. It is far too easy within the grief process to attempt rationalization or to play the “if only” game. Between denial, anger, and depression, self-blame takes a front row seat as we attempt to understand the pain. Most often, we want to avoid or ignore such heavy emotions, but if we choose instead to allow each to have their time and then ask compassionate questions of ourselves, we will find the truth of restoration that allows us to grow around the pain instead of bringing it to finality.
Grief never leaves us, because it is an emotion, but the act of grieving can stop. And in the meantime, we learn to expand our emotional intelligence and self-compassion to move through the sorrow. When we hold space for curious questions about our responses, allow ourselves to feel the full force of our grief, and sit with trusted others who hold space for us without judgment, we will release a layer of sorrow to make room for a layer of peace.
Thank you for listening to episode 42 of Restorative Grief. The more time we invest in recognizing signs of grief in ourselves, the easier it will be to see it in others, and that allows us to respond with compassion instead of correction or minimizing. If you are new to Restorative Grief, I want to thank you for listening. Please make time to subscribe for our weekly episodes, out each Sunday, and leave us a review on Apple or Spotify podcasts. You are also hereby invited to become a premium subscriber to the podcast. For a generous $4.99 a month, you gain access to bonus content including exclusive interviews, Q+A coaching sessions, guided meditations, and more. The Restorative Grief model is entering year two, and needs your financial support to continue. So if you’re in a space that financial support is possible, your generosity is greatly appreciated. And if not, keep checking in each week to get what you need, take what serves you, and leave the rest.
And before we go, one last thing. Please remember; the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.
Links + Resources from this episode:
- Join The Restorative Grief Project, a private online grief coaching community
- Listen to this episode of Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart on Spotify
- Become a premium subscriber for all the bonus content here
- Snag a copy of my book, Restorative Grief
- Connect with me on Twitter or Instagram @MandyCapehart