Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Something which is deeply traumatic for one person would not be to another. Regardless of our description of events, we experience a collective emotion which we have named grief.
Grief is powerful
Grief is a major emotion. It can be incapacitating for a while, literally stopping us and forcing us to reassess everything we felt we knew.
The synonyms for grief express a huge emotion; anguish, pain and misery are strong words for a strong sense. When we see someone experiencing heartache we tend to watch with deep empathy and an understanding of the extent of their feeling.
But there is also a sense of us as the watcher who has somehow, this time, escaped the sorrow. As adults we recognize one day it will be our time, and maybe that is why we give people space and time to grieve. Perhaps it is simple enlightened self-interest.
Grief contains a range of other emotions
It is no wonder people become unhinged by grief. There is an awful lot to deal with in deep pain. Sorting through the emotions can be exhausting. Psychologists have worked through 5 stages which grief takes, sometimes we rush through some and dwell in others, but if you can think back to a traumatic event, you can see them in action
We start with disbelief, a denial the event took place. This is the point where we are numb and things make no sense to us. We may be in shock at the time. The shock is the brain causing a delay in processing because something is just too big to deal with now.
Another very strong emotion is anger. At first, this seems to be an odd emotion but it helps us to get to the pain. Anger can go in all sorts of directions. It can be massive rage against the world or against a person, it can even be rage against ourselves that we allow things to happen. Under the anger is our pain and feeling the pain is what we need to do.
Next, we go through the ‘if only’ stage, or the bargaining stage where we try and get back to what was before. We will make our way through depression too. Don’t confuse this depression with the clinical type of depression; rather this is facing the present head-on. We acknowledge our loss and we see the holes it leaves in our lives. Of course, we feel blue, who wouldn’t.
At some point, we will reach acceptance. We come to terms, we deal, we understand the present and we move forward. This doesn’t mean everything is back to how it was. What it means is we have made peace with how it is.
We may go through these emotions in minutes and not days, we may experience them over a protracted period, we may need help in getting through them, but they are natural and ultimately there for our protection.