I recently came home from a training session in the Stephen Ministry with an amazing self-revelation. My book, CRAZY, is really a piece of grief work. I’ve already acknowledged that writing this book was cathartic and that it is certainly autobiographical, but never before did I consider that writing it was a significant part of working through grief.
I thought my book was about my acceptance of my mother’s mental illness, but I see now that the grieving process does not have to be specifically related to an actual death. In fact, there is something called disenfranchised grief in which people experience a loss that those around them do not recognize as a legitimate loss.
My mother died in old age, but I lost her to mental illness in early childhood, and unbeknownst to me, the grieving started then. I write this to encourage anyone who might not have considered that grief happens to most of us daily, in ways that we might never imagine. I learned from a Hospice specialist that we can grieve over something as simple as the traffic jam that prevents us from getting to that important meeting on time.
J. William Worden, an expert in the field of grief and mourning, defines grief as “the experience of one who has lost a loved one to death.” But he readily notes that grief can be applied to other losses that evoke sorrow, anger, guilt, and confusion.
In his book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Worden notes that normal grief responses generally fall under four categories: feelings, physical sensations, cognitions, and behaviors. A wonderfully encouraging note is that “it’s normal to feel abnormal” during the grieving process.
Worden views the grieving process as a series of tasks that are not bound to a linear progression. In other words, you can work them at your leisure in any order. They are:
- Accepting the reality of the loss
- Experiencing the pain of grief
- Adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing
- Withdrawing emotional energy and reinvesting it in another relationship
I now see that my personal grieving process has taken years to evolve and resolve itself. Writing a book was part of my healing process. My hope is that someone reading this might discover, as I did, that there is grieving work to be done, and healthy ways in which to make it happen.