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Faith Christine Bergevin MA, RCC

by Faith Christine Bergevin MA, RCC

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When we think of grief we often thing of the big stuff – losing someone we love to death, the dissolution of a marriage, or getting a serious medical diagnosis. But we rarely talk about everyday grief.

An example is grief that can be experienced by divorced parents weekly when they drop their child off at the other parent’s house for changeover day. This could be really deep grief for a stay-at-home mother who is used to seeing her child every day but now must share custody with the other parent. This may start as major grief at the beginning of the separation but over time often becomes smaller. Even within this grief that happens on a regular basis, there may be relief in handing over a child so work can get done – but there can be that twinge of pain at seeing a child leave.

This grief of the loss of a child’s presence for part of a week in addition to the grief of divorce itself can sometimes prepare people better than those in ‘intact families’ for what happens later: when children grow up and move out to start their own lives, the culturally known ‘empty nest syndrome.’ Another grief unto itself, this grief often can affect the parent who did the bulk of child rearing with a sense they’ve lost their purpose. When a person’s life has revolved around helping a child learn and grow and driving them here and there, the emptiness of this loss when the child leaves for good to make their own lives, can send a person into grief.

Or for the singles among us, there can be some grief when a new man you start dating doesn’t call or text – a person might wonder, What’s happening? Is he into me or is he not? These thoughts can bring up grief of varying degrees depending on how much this new guy means to them and their personal attachment patterns for relationships, whether someone is more anxious or secure in their approach to romantic relationships.

Grief in a Scone

Everyday grief can even come in the form of not having your favourite pastry. Before the pandemic, one of my local coffee shops made a jalapeño cheddar scone – it was a favourite treat. Fresh from the oven somewhere between 8:15 am and 8:45 am, it was warm and the butter melted into its squishy spicy insides encased in a crispy cheesy shell. Once a week after dropping off my kids at school I’d go to enjoy its buttery goodness. And I wasn’t the only one – if I waited too long they were sold out, as soon as 10:30 so you had to move fast. But once the pandemic hit the coffee shop shortened their menu and the scone was gone. Now society tells us to grow up and not fret about such things, that it’s not a big deal and I can learn to make my own damn scones. But it’s not the point. The scone was a symbol of slowing down, enjoying the moment, and a treat after the mad school-day rush. Its loss is one of the many in a world full of losses during the pandemic. It’s a small thing. And yes, it’s not illness. It’s not death. But it is a disappointment and we do ourselves a disservice to discount the little losses in our lives. We can still say, oh I’m sad about that. It’s okay to acknowledge we’re sad about a scone!

Grief lies on a scale from small ones like missed scones and not getting a parking spot to romantic breakups and losing your job all the way up to financial ruin, recovery from a violent crime, and death of a loved one. There’s no good to come of denying our little griefs because if we do that we lose the sensitivity to feel, to really feel our lives. Now this is not to say we lash out at others in our grief. It’s enough sometimes to simply say, ‘I feel sad about this.’ And then we get to move on.

Anticipatory Grief and Disenfranchised Grief

In the realm of grief study, there are two special categories that are often not discussed but their presence in the world can deeply affect how a person experiences their everyday lives: anticipatory grief and disenfranchised grief. Anticipatory grief is grief in anticipation of an expected loss; for instance, if a loved one is terminally ill, they are waiting for death to happen. The grief is there in the back of the mind – have I said what I needed to? How will I manage when this person goes?

And there’s also disenfranchised grief. This is a grief over something that society frowns upon. Things that the world at large don’t seem to understand as it can threaten the very fabric of society and its beliefs about the ‘right’ way to grieve. Some examples are: estrangement from family members, grieving ‘too long’ over a loved one, recovery from rape, and death by suicide.

While disenfranchised grief and anticipatory grief are on the heavier or ‘more serious’ side of grief – these are types of grief that people you cross paths with everyday may be coping with and you just might not know it. While we go about our days, we can be attuned to the different grief that can be true in our own lives as well as other people’s. Grief is everywhere. Here with us all the time whether we want it to be or not.

Live Grief for Joy

Everyday, grief lives in us. And it is my belief that how much we allow ourselves time to process that grief has a direct impact on how much joy we get to live. If we’re always pushing the grief down, calling it silly or berating ourselves because we don’t have time to feel our grief, then we are dampening our senses. We are not allowing our full humanity to come forth and shine. If we allow ourselves time to grieve, we clear an emotional path that empties us, that frees us, so other emotions can come. So joy can come.

The other day I was finishing up estate planning – never a fun job but something one must do as an adult with children – and I was overcome by my own grief. When these letters of instruction come to fruition, I thought, I will be gone. Dead. And I thought, What will I have achieved? Will I have loved enough? Will I have repaired the issues with the people I love? And as I pondered the big issues, these very clear existential ones, I felt a deep sorrow. I felt the passing of time and what is left. I still had more ‘estate business’ to do, sending emails and organizing my files, but I stopped. Overcome, I went and lay down and cried until my grief had passed through me.

Only then could I move on. Only once I processed my grief could I do something else, make another choice. What did I do? I realized I had to call it a day on this ‘estate planning job.’ I made dinner. Watched a show. I decided I needed to go and do something fun. Since I’d been sad, I’d considered skipping the dance class I’d signed up for. But I decided to put music on, in particular, The Greatest Showman, and I sang and danced as I dressed myself in a lively red top and black swirly skirt. Then I went dancing and learned Latin and Ballroom line dance, wearing a face shield and physically distancing myself to others wearing their masks and face shields as we do in these times.

And afterwards, I was glad. I lived my evening. I lived my joy.

Everyday grief is in all of us. It needs expression. It needs for us to say, ‘ok I hear you, I feel you.’ I’m giving you time to feel.

Take that time.

Let yourself feel your grief and it will pass. Some griefs take longer than others, like mourning the death of a loved one, recovering from rape, and profound life changes like divorce. But even little losses result in grief, like the delicious scone on those now lost Tuesdays, and however small the grief, we can let ourselves feel.

Today give yourself the chance to grieve.

It’s there. Let it come.

 

 

Worden, J.W. (2018). Grief counselling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner 5th ed. Springer Publishing Company.

 

Disclaimer: The blog on this site is for information only. It is not therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. It is meant to be helpful and provide other perspectives. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local emergency number or your local crisis line listed on your government’s mental health services pages.

About the author

Faith Christine Bergevin MA, RCC has a Master of Arts degree in counselling psychology from the University of Victoria. She works with individuals who are struggling with life issues, such as depression, anxiety, and life transitions, as well as those who are looking to find more meaning and purpose in life.

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