Making Sense of Sorrow: The Nature and Purpose of Grief
Each one of us has experienced grief at least once in our life. Grief, in essence, is a sorrowful process that we may undergo for various reasons: breakup, career loss, death of a loved one, and more. Different people respond to grief in different ways. Some indulge themselves in unhealthy habits such as alcohol-drinking and smoking, while others go through the process of acceptance, regardless of how long it is.
Doreen Hatton, in her book Then Sings My Soul, tackled the concept of grief in a unique perspective. She looked at it from the point of view of a family that is grieving the loss of its patriarch, but at the same time, is willing to understand the side of the person who caused all of its grieving. Here, Doreen Hatton tried to build a connection between grief and forgiveness – how the former can be reduced by the latter. To know more about her book, contact Doreen Hatton on this author website.
For some people, however, grief can be too much of a burden to carry. It can be something so emotionally and mentally destabilizing. At some point, these people may ask, “What is grief for?” “Is there a purpose behind grief?” To try to answer these questions, this article briefly discusses below the nature and purpose of grief to be able to make sense of this sorrowful process.
What is grief?
By definition, grief is a natural response to loss. It is a strong and sorrowful emotion that people feel after experiencing a kind of loss, either of a partner, a job, a family member, or others. Commonly, when a person suffers a loss, the emotions can be overwhelming. They can create deep and poignant distress that can lead to emotional and mental instability. This is precisely what grief looks like – grief is an overwhelming emotion that causes people to feel deeply sorrowful.
As a process, grief is a highly individual experience. Different people grieve differently. There is definitely no proper or improper way to grieve. However people cope with their loss depends on several factors: their personality, coping style, life experience, faith, and more. With that being said, grief is a completely natural feeling.
What are the stages of grief?
Although each person has a different way of grieving, grief has universal stages that apply to people from all walks of life. These stages were first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book entitled On Death and Dying. According to her, people go through the five stages of grief when they have experienced a loss. However, these stages do not necessarily occur in order, and are experienced by different people in different lengths of time and with different levels of intensity.
Here are the five stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
- Denial – This involves having a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
- Anger – This involves having extreme feelings of anger and thinking that life is unfair.
- Bargaining – This involves regretting and thinking of the “what ifs”.
- Depression – This involves feeling of hopelessness and lack of reason to continue on.
- Acceptance – This involves the gradual acceptance of the loss and the new way of life that it has afforded.
What is the purpose of grief?
Grief is a deeply sorrowful feeling. It is a process that no one wants to ever go through. However, grief is actually a necessary emotion and process that people need to feel and undergo. The ultimate purpose of grief is simple: it allows you to go beyond your initial reaction to your loss.
When you experience a loss, you go through a lot of pain. You feel extreme sadness and sorrow. By grieving, however, you are allowing yourself to feel everything – the pain, sadness, and sorrow – temporarily so you can eventually move past it. To put it differently, grieving is like a journey that leads you to a place where you can live with the reality of your loss in a healthy way. It gives you the opportunity to confront your emotions, and to adapt to them.
Overall, the main purpose of grief is to help us recognize the fact that in life, nothing is permanent – we are all bound to lose everything, even those that are most precious to us. Grieving helps us to be able to live with this reality of losing. However, more than anything, the most reason behind grief is that by grieving, we learn that even in our most painful days, there is hope. Life continues no matter what happens. In our journey through life, grieving is inevitable and necessary. No matter how difficult or sorrowful the process is, for all of its reasons, there is a sense in grieving.