Is Sadness, an Illness?

Recently, my family, friends and some of my clients, have found themselves feeling raw and vulnerable after the death of someone very precious.  I too have felt that hollowness. Grief is such a personal thing. Losing someone can throw out a whole planet’s orbit, leaving us alone with a little voice in our head asking “how could this happen?”  or “what am I supposed to do now?”

Too often I see my clients feeling angry with themselves for continuing to feel sad months after the death.  I’m not always sure where it comes from, but it seems as if they expect grief to hit hard, and then just kind of peter out until in a few short months they have returned wholeheartedly to the minutiae of their lives.  But guess what? It is just not that simple. Grieving takes time and adjusting to loss often means that we will find ourselves being triggered by the darndest things.

One of the giants in this area is Swiss psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Her work includes On Death and Dying (1969), and On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss  (2005). I’m not a fan of theories that look to pigeon-hole human emotion, however, in situations where people need to find something to hold on to, books like these can be very helpful.

If I could give people one piece of wisdom, that wisdom would be….. Suspend self-judgment, make sure you have a team of authentic people you can talk to when you’re ready, and try not to set expectations of how you think things should progress.  You are unique, as is your experience of pain, and you deserve your own self-care and compassion.