Spectrum of Grieving

by Julie Ann Allender

One of the big mistakes that people make is assuming that all grief is equal. Grief for one individual is not the same as for another. One often makes the mistake of passing judgment on those who are grieving, making it worse for those that need to face their losses. Some individuals are not ready to face their grief and need to work toward finding the path to start their own grieving process. Others may never face their grieving process.

What we have grown to teach today is that loss and grief are partners. Whether it is the loss of a family member, a friend, a pet, a favorite car, a job, a relationship or the end of high school, one can experience sadness, anger, frustration and many other emotions.

Loss will often lead to the need to face grief and the grieving process. Some people go for walks. Some put their attention into their pets. Some work long hours. Some drink or do drugs. Whether a person chooses a healthy means or an unhealthy means to deal with the grief depends on what level of coping skills they have.

It isn’t unusual for a person who has experienced a divorce or a custody dispute to spend three or four years unable to enjoy or participate in activities, hobbies or extracurricular activities that they might have enjoyed in the past. The beauty of the grieving process is that if one allows the body to experience the grief and the time one needs to heal, eventually that blockage goes away and the enjoyment returns.

Even animals grieve. Some years ago a dog, Chewie, lost her buddy Bagel. Chewie had never dug holes, but was suddenly digging up the backyard and burying her toys in strange places all over the house. One day, her owner realized what Chewie was doing. She sat down next to her and asked her if she thought that by burying the bones, Bagel would return. Chewie became excited as if to say, “Yes, she will come back, won’t she?” Once Chewie felt that her owner understood and was also grieving, she never dug another hole. Instead, they worked on their grief together.

Grieving is different for different races, genders, nationalities, religions and the circumstances of the loss. The Irish have a party to remember those that have departed. Jewish families sit Shiva on the week following the death of a loved one. Some people have funerals and others have memorials. We must respect whatever manner or ritual a person follows and help those that are suffering from the loss to grieve in a manner that will provide comfort.

It is important to know that we all grieve in different ways, and what helps in one situation may not work for others. However, when the grieving becomes dangerous or harmful to oneself or others, then we need to step in and redirect to hopefully turn the harmful situation into something the person can use to ease the painful experience. It isn’t for us to judge those that grieve or don’t grieve, but rather, to help them find their way if and when they may need help.


Julie Ann Allender, EDD, is a licensed psychologist practicing in Sellersville. Connect with her at 215-799-2220, DrJAAllender@gmail.com or PetTherapyParadisePark.com. February 2015.


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