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  • Writer's pictureJanis E. McKinstry, MA

Navigating the Complex Terrain of Grief: A Compassionate Exploration of the Human Experience

In the intricate tapestry of human emotions, grief stands as a profound and transformative force that touches us all at some point in our lives. I've felt deep grief with so many, too many, and in so many ways. An anniversary just passed that stirred my heart in melancholy ways and this is why I'm writing about grief now. I believe we've all felt grief in varying ways and it's important to talk about it. Sometimes it feels unbearable, like a deep stabbing pain in the heart, or perhaps like floating in a fog, or a dull ache all over that renders us paralyzed. Grief is a universal emotion, a natural response to the challenges and transitions that shape our existence. Grief is a complex and multifaceted experience that can evoke a range of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations, challenging us to navigate its depths with compassion, understanding, and resilience.

Highly Sensitive People feel grief so deeply. Some people are able to brush it off and go on with their days, but not us. It's hard to understand that for us. We feel grief in every cell and etherial bit

of our being. It's not something to get over, it's to be felt and honored. It's evidence of love.

Grief comes in many forms. It can come quickly with news of a tragedy, go on and on with world events, or build more slowly with uncomfortable and difficult life decisions. A memory of grief can be awakened with something like a date, scent, sound, flower, scene in a movie, photograph, or memory of something shared. Recently for me, it was a scene in a movie that hit me and opened me up to tears and a sense of aloneness. To feel this so deeply so long after the death of my loved one reminded me of my depth.

Grief is a journey that unfolds in its own time and in its own way, unique to each individual and shaped by their personal history, relationships, and ways they cope in times of deep emotion. It is not a linear process with a clear beginning and end, but rather a dynamic and evolving experience that requires patience, self-compassion, and support from others. Grief doesn't just fade away with time, rather life grows around the grief making room for new memories and holding tender space for the broken heart. I believe honoring grief is a way of expansion.

One of the central aspects of grief is the deep sense of longing and yearning that it can evoke. This longing is not just for what was, but for what could have been, for the dreams and possibilities that now seem out of reach. It is a poignant reminder of the depth of our connections with others and the impact they have on our lives.

In the midst of grief, it is common to experience a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to confusion and guilt. These emotions can be intense and overwhelming, at times threatening to engulf us in their depths. It is important to honor and acknowledge these emotions, allowing ourselves the space to feel and express them without judgment or self-criticism.

Grief can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, aches and pains, and other ways. These physical manifestations of grief are a reflection of the mind-body connection and serve as a reminder of the interconnectedness of our emotional and physical well-being. To fully heal we must work with the body. Mindfulness, Breath work, Somatic Experiencing, Somatic Release are all useful to heal and feel whole again. We are made up of mind, body, spirit, and emotions and cannot ignore or abandon ourselves in grief. We must honor each feeling and learn to be with it in a loving way so that we can then move through it. Recognizing that it takes extra care during times of grief through self care, honoring when we're needing rest, nourishing food, exercise, and other self-care practices can help us navigate the challenges of grief with greater resilience and strength.

As we journey through grief, we may find ourselves isolating, or not wanting to talk about our feelings, but it is essential to seek support from trusted friends, family, support groups, or mental health professionals like me. Sharing our grief with others can provide comfort, validation, and a sense of connection during times of isolation and despair. It is through the act of accessing our feelings, sharing our pain, stories and our vulnerabilities that we can find solace and healing in the midst of grief.

In the complex and nuanced landscape of grief, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and please be gentle with yourself realizing there is no timeline or roadmap to follow. Each individual's experience of grief is as unique as a fingerprint, shaped by their own emotions, beliefs, and values. By approaching grief with empathy, compassion, and especially self-compassion, we can navigate its complexities with grace, courage, and resilience as we move through it, emerging on the other side with a deeper understanding of ourselves and the human experience. I'd be honored to help you navigate the paths and roads of grief to help you come out to greener pastures to explore and enjoy. Please click one of the purple boxes and reach out for a complimentary meeting so we can talk about your path.


Janis E. McKinstry, MA

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