An REBT Perspective on Grief

Posted on March 1, 2011

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So what is grief?  There are various experts who would describe it in terms of stages or milestones that must be crossed.  We can antiseptically described the first initial knowledge of the loss of someone you loved deeply as shock. But the word ‘shock’ does not describe what has happened or how you really feel.  The loss of someone that you’ve been with for 60 years is like a tidal wave.  Half of your soul has been ripped from your body.  Who you are, which is always been in relationship to the one you loved, disappears and you are left rudderless on a seemingly unending ocean.  Eventually land begins to appear and things become familiar to you again. The ground begins to firm beneath your feet.

This description of grief is quite similar to the existential psychology understanding of grief (“Invitation to  Existential Psychology” by Bo Jacobsen).  The more we understand about the animal world and especially those animals that experience are rather high level of emotions we know that grief is not unique to us. Grief is natural to us and to other sentient beings.  It simply is; it exists.  We can try to interpret it in a meaningful way or not. Both of those choices are also normal. The bottom line it hurts like hell and eventually we forget the pain. I don’t think we forget the pain because we “sublimate” the pain or because we’ve made “meaning” out of it.  I think we forget because it’s entirely natural to us, that as a species and to other sentient species, vividly remembering the pain for ever is not conducive to life, and by ‘life’ I mean walking around, breathing, Et cetera. The bottom line is it hurts more deeply more truly then anything you’ve ever experienced.  It is a one of the most intense appropriate negative emotions that exists.  It is a also one of the experiences that most of us will go through. Let’s not get too philosophical about it, grieving over a death is a part of life, period.

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