Contextualizing Grief

In my experiences, grief has been most commonly recognized with a major event: the loss of another human being. There seemed to be a framework for understanding the sorrow and longing that a person feels who lost their mother or husband or child or friend, and in some instances a pet. Though not for long enough, there seemed to be recognition that this could affect one’s mood, health and therefore their presence at work or participation in social activities.

Expanding the Definition of Grief

However, there seemed to be no real framework for understanding other, more common forms of grief. I have experienced the loss of ideas I held about who I thought a person was, only to find that they were not the person I believed them to be. I have experienced the loss of ideas I held about the ways things were, learning in my 30s that the man who was in my life as my father was actually not my biological father. And I have experienced the loss of soul-bound relationships.

I have experienced the loss of how my marriage was designed. Though the man is the same, the marriage I had when I got married to him nearly two decades ago is no longer the marriage I have today. I have experienced the loss of customs and traditions that defined an era in my family. I have lost the image of a vision I had carefully crafted for my children’s future.  And I have experienced the loss of aspects of my own identity that I thought would remain with me throughout my life.

I carry pain of varying levels of intensity because of each of these common losses and the grief they bring.

Recognizing Grief

But there seems to be no real framework in society for recognizing or understanding the grief associated with losing a long-held or deeply-rooted perception of reality. There’s no bereavement period offered to those dealing with the death of the idea they held about their mother. There is no leave for establishing a new relationship with a long-lost relative. There’s no real community for those suffering with these forms of common grief because there is so much isolation around them.

Creating Space for Grief

It is my hope that we can expand our awareness that minute-to-minute, many people we encounter are dealing with some form of grief. This can oftentimes look like lack of focus, withdrawal, sadness, difficulty conveying ideas, moodiness, guilt, regret, shame. It can look like exuberance, over-indulgence in activities, food, work or substances. It can also be flat out anger or rage or any variety or combination of emotions.

My hope is that with this expanded awareness, grief and mourning can be more visible and occupy a more central space in our interactions with one another. My hope is that we see more dimensions of our humanity and that we can be more compassionate with ourselves and towards one another, recognizing that a curt word or missed deadline might call for more care or curiosity rather than a reprimand.

Read more by Stacey on Open to Hope: Evolving My Perspective on Grief – Open to Hope

S. Dione Mitchell

Stacey D. Mitchell is a cisgender, Black woman, wife, mother, friend, learner, mourner and follower of Christ from the South Side of Chicago. Though Stacey has held a variety of jobs since the age of 14, her career began as a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, where she was the recipient of a variety of awards, most prominently when she was selected as Teacher of the Year by her peers. Since then, she has worked in service of marginalized communities and People development in her roles as the Vice President of People and Equity at Educators for Excellence; the head of the People department at the Obama Foundation and now as the Founder of SAGEli Consulting where she helps individuals and organizations realize their highest, most positive personal and social impact. Stacey is also a Surge alumni. She graduated with distinction from the University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign, is fluent in Spanish and really enjoys long walks in scenic outdoor spaces, reading, writing, jumping double dutch, skating and spending time with her loved ones.

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