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Grief Series: The Work of Grief Part 2

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Someone has said that ‘our lives are determined by how we respond to unfairness’. Many of life’s losses feel unfair, and if this is the case, how in the world can we accept that which feels so unfair? This is something we can definitely call ‘work’. Let’s continue to explore it.

Sometimes those dealing with grief paralyze their own grief work with inner self-talk like this:

  • "Somehow it feels disloyal to laugh or try to be happy."

  • "What can I possibly have to look forward to?"

  • "I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that in some ways the loss is a relief."

  • "How can I ever let myself love again if it all comes to this?"

The reality is, it is not time that heals, but rather healing comes through acceptance - someone has heard you, witnessed your pain and stood by you without judgement or trying to rescue you from your feelings - and as someone accepts you in your grief, it provides strength that can help you accept your new reality.

The following TEAR acronym outlines the goals of grief work:

To accept the reality of the loss - requires that we explore what that loss means to us.

Experiencing the pain and emotion - requires ‘letting it out’. Left to our own thoughts, grief can lead to despair, whereas talking to the right person can help us resolve feelings that may otherwise be left ‘incomplete’, such as: things that had gone unsaid; regrets; guilt; anger, etc. Sorting through our memories and bringing resolution to these thoughts and feelings helps us avoid getting ‘stuck’ in negative or despairing thoughts or unhealthy coping strategies.

Adjusting to the new reality - is about finding the hope that life can have meaning again. What do we believe is still possible? If we live focused more on the lack of an ideal, it will rob something from us - joy, health, relationships, peace, etc. Therefore adjusting means beginning to lay to rest an old ideal in order to discover a new picture for our lives.

Reinvesting in a new reality - involves doing the things that bring you joy again. We have to take steps to rebuild our world post-loss. Rather than denying our reality, we invest our actions into a new reality - that new picture of what is possible. This doesn’t mean we won’t still struggle with the feelings tied to the loss, but it means that we no longer let them anchor us to the past.

I love this line from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you are becoming.” All our experiences - the joys, the pain, the loss, the gains - are part of our story, our story of love and growth. You are more than what you had in the past. I encourage you to complete the work that comes with responding to life’s unfairness and eventually you will see the new strength and insight you have achieved, and can offer to others.


Sometimes grief can become chronic and introduce other health problems that make it impossible to function, even after many months. Grief treatment and grief counseling can be an option for someone struggling to overcome grief on their own. No one should be ashamed to seek professional help for grief. Physicians and therapists can offer suggestions to improve coping skills and evaluate an individual for secondary health problems stemming from grief.

The information on this website is intended for general education purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.

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