Understanding Grief

Understanding Grief

After the loss of a loved one, we each experience grief in our own unique way. Grief is what we think and feel on the inside, and mourning is our outward expression of those thoughts and feelings. Grief takes many forms and occurs in stages; it ebbs and flows. When we have a loved one who is seriously ill and death is probable, our grief can begin then before the death occurs. After a death, grief continues individually and may become more pronounced on special days or even months or years after a loss.


Whatever and whenever you experience your grief, we are here for you. With books on grief and loss, available support groups, programs on coping with loss, other community resources and decades of experience, Lensing's promises that you are not alone in this journey.

Understanding Grief
By Chris Klug

I've been working with those who are grieving for over 13 years now. I can honestly say that most of what I now know and believe about the grieving process I have learned from those who have shared their grief with me, and from paying close attention to my own grief experiences. Here are some pieces of information about grief and loss that, in my experience, seem to be the most helpful to those who are grieving.

First, the simple, though often difficult, understanding that grief is not an illness to recover from, but rather a normal, healthy experience that all humans share, which can be worked through in such a way that the whole experience of loss and grief can ultimately contribute to the person's wholeness and well being, rather than be disabling or debilitating.

Second, the understanding that the hurt and pain of grief do not indicate that there is anything wrong with the person who is grieving. In fact the hurt is good news, as strange as that may seem, because it indicates that our hearts have been open and tender enough to connect deeply with another. 

Third, that grieving, though unique to each individual, involves experiencing things that do not feel normal and do, often, feel like illness. These are called characteristics (not symptoms) of grief and a few of the most common are short-term memory loss, inability to pay attention, lack of motivation, huge mood swings, change of appetite, change of sleep pattern, a tendency toward isolation, questions about the loss event itself (why us? why now?) and about the meaning and purpose of life. The good news is these characteristics are not permanent, and will diminish as one moves out of the time of acute grief, though, they may re-occur at times like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Of course these things don't feel normal to us, but they are normal given the situation of loss and grief that we are going through.

Fourth, the importance for grievers to give themselves permission to cooperate with the grieving process, i.e., feel what you are feeling, think what you are thinking, and to accept that their process will unfold on an emotional timetable rather than a chronological one. Days and weeks and months and hours (i.e., chronological time) can seem like moments or years or both at the same time (i.e., emotional time), as in the case of someone who says on the first anniversary of their loved one's death that it seems like much longer than a year and it seems just like yesterday at the same time. This is OK. They are not going crazy; they are on emotional time.

And finally, the critical importance for many of knowing that someone "gets it" about their grief, that someone understands that they're not sick and they're not going crazy, and that they need as much time as they need to work with and through their grief, and that there's no going back to normal, but, rather, a living into a new normal that holds out the possibility of a reasonably happy and healthy life that has not left their deceased loved one behind, but, rather, has integrated them and the loss event into the wholeness of their newly normal life.

Chris Klug is a grief counselor, educator and consultant in private practice in Iowa City. He has over 13 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families following the death of a family member or friend. He is Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, and can be reached at 319-471-0832 or cklug.7384@yahoo.com.  Website: www.chriskluggriefcounseling.com.

Never hesitate to reach out for help. If you are in need of additional support, such as counseling or reading materials, know that you can always turn to Lensing’s for referrals and ideas.

Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt,
sleeping when you are tired, 
eating when you are hungry, 
or sneezing when your nose itches.
It is nature's way of healing a broken heart.

Doug Manning


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