Grief is something we want to avoid as a human because it is painful. Grief (defined as deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death) is something we will all experience. This blog explores how to recognize grief, 3 reasons we grieve, and how to process grief and move forward to a happier future.  As Shirzad Chamine says, “Every single thing that is precious to us we shall lose.”  Sobering thought, huh?

Need Support through the grieving process? I’m here to help. Register below for upcoming Heal Your Heart Retreat.

We Will Lose Everything

Though this is a very difficult truth, it is a belief that will give us peace if we can accept it in our heart.  I’m not there yet.  It’s a tall order to embrace that nothing lasts here on Earth.  So much of our energy is put into protecting this being we call YOU and I.  We walk around with thick armors to prevent further injury to our tender hearts.  This applies to everyone, including those of us who think we don’t care what others think of us.


That we will lose everything brings to mind Ray Charles’ quote: “Live each day like it’s your last, ’cause one day you gonna be right.” This motto presents the key to happiness, and yet none of us really wants to believe it.  This denial explains why most of us don’t “seize the day” and really live life,  even though we know our death is inevitable.

We Don’t Know How To Grieve

Since we are in such denial of the nature of life and death, it makes sense we don’t honor our grief. Why would we honor something we don’t even recognize?
Grieving is a skillset we’ve not yet learned in our modern society. I’ve heard stories from people that that lose someone they dearly love one day, and literally the next day they are back to work. No one is talking about anything. We figure if we can sweep the loss under the rug, compartmentalize our feelings around it, the pain will go away. 
But where does the pain go to? It has to have an outlet. The mind may try to forget, but the body remembers. The body has a cellular memory, and pain gets stored until we do something about it to release it (more on that later).

We Don’t Know What To Say To Others Grieving

Because we are so uncomfortable with our pain, the automatic response is to shut down our heart, to self-protect.  That is normal.  So when we are confronted with another person’s difficult loss, we don’t know what to say. We freeze and avoid them and say nothing. Or we say something insensitive though well-meaning, “Everything happens for a reason,” “They graduated to a higher consciousness,” and so on.
Most of us mean well when we offer our condolences.  What if we put ourselves in their shoes, and truly tried to connect to what they may be feeling? Perhaps we’d discover that the less words we say, the better. If we can keep our heart open to them and what they’re experiencing, they will feel that warmth and love. This will be reassuring to them. The following will be appreciated:  Physically touching their shoulder or arm, giving them a long hug (ask if they want this), deeply looking into their eyes and sending them love.

Types Of Grief 


There are 15 types of grief (deep sorrow) that we may experience.  It’s a very personal experience, depending on our relationship with the loved one.  See here for a comprehensive list. The one I most relate to is Anticipatory Grief. This is often felt by family caregivers who anticipate a loss for a long time.
In the last year before my daugther, Maddie’s, death, I would get images of finding her dead in her bed. I would get thoughts like, “This will be her last birthday. This will be the last time I hold her in the ocean. This will be the last time I ride the four-wheeler with her. This will be my last birthday with her.” I would listen to sad songs and grieve for her in that last year. I was feeling her slowly disconnect from this reality. It was terribly sad and de-stabilizing.
I’m currently reading a book called HeartBroken: Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis where seven parents tell the stories of their diverse journeys through the opioid crisis and the traumatic grief of losing a child to drug addiction. These parents experienced Disenfranchised Grief. This is when others may not understand the importance of the loss or they may minimize the significance of the loss.  Examples of when others might not acknowledge the importance of a loss are loss of a pet, an ex-spouse, co-worker, or perhaps a child who did drugs or committed suicide.  This is especially heart-breaking because one is dealing with their grief, without the perceived support from others, that is so crucial to healing.
The third type of grief I want to point out is Collective Grief, which is grief felt like a group of people.  We are all connected to each other through an energy circuit somehow.  Right now on our Earth so many are dying. I hear about a new death practically every day. We are all experiencing this trauma together, and it’s a lot to take in and hold a space for.

Reasons For Grief (And Many More)

  1. Loss of someone or something we dearly love (child, spouse, parent, friend, pet, etc.
  2. Loss of our identity due to the loss of some foundational support system (divorce, job loss, move, etc.)
  3. Feeling abandoned deep in our soul

Losing Someone/Something You Love

I’m so sorry for your loss, whatever it is.  If you lost someone you love, you know that there is a hole in your heart that will never go away.  Know that grief can live inside of you every single day of the rest of your life.  It doesn’t go away. But you can live with it and even thrive again.  You can convert the pain into gratitude for the time you got with your loved one.
Give yourself permission to grieve exactly the way you want.  This is the time to be indulgent with your feelings.  Your love for this person or animal is YOUR love; it’s YOUR experience. Don’t let anyone define that for you. Don’t compare your love of this person or animal to another’s inner world or their pain and suffering. We can’t know what’s going on for another person.

Loss Of Identity

Even if we’ve lost a way of life that is dysfunctional and harmful to us, it’s still a change that can be difficult to navigate.  Whether it’s a divorce, loss of a job, a move across town or the world, being disenfranchised by our family, losing our religion, losing our health, etc., something has shifted in our world that feels like the ground below has dropped out from underneath us.
We wonder who we are without (fill in the blank–the abuse, the caretaking, the religion, the love of the narcissist, the approval of our parents, children, spouse, etc.). It can be a feeling of listlessness, like we’re floating about on an endless sea of uncertainty.  Without a solid mooring to something, not being grounded in ourselves, it’s like the lights are on but no one is home.  This makes us vulnerable to attack, manipulation and control.

Feeling Abandoned

I currently have the belief, which is losing strength, that “I am abandoned, and I will always be abandoned.” This belief came about when as a young child I felt unsafe with my parents.  Sidenote: I love both of my parents and feel calm within my nervous system that they love me too. When I share about them, it’s for teaching purposes only and not to dishonor them.
My dad didn’t treat my mom as she deserved to be treated, with kindness and respect.  He was abusive towards her. One of my caretakers was harming my other caretaker, putting her at risk.  So neither parent felt secure and available to meet my needs.  This situation has a way of freaking a child out, “Now what?! Who’s going to keep me safe?”
It’s really difficult to conclude that our parents aren’t a safe haven. As a result, children will subconsciusly, irrationally and with unspoken words in their heart, conclude, “It must be me.  Something is wrong with me. I’m not a lovable kid.” When we feel abandoned by people not returning our calls, mistreating us, ignoring us, misunderstanding us and so on, we turn to people pleasing to keep them happy and “around the ‘ole homestead.” In other words, we want to keep them with us.
To heal from the trauma of grief, all of these scenarios require us to:
  1. Be aware we ARE grieving. Most people aren’t conscious of this, unless it’s a recent obvious loss or change.
  2. In the early stages of grief if we’ve just learned about someone’s death, let’s focus on simply breathing and staying with ourselves, not abandoning ourselves despite the pain. This helps to regulate the nervous system so it can process more information when we are ready.
  3. When ready, do the grieving work, to process and release the pain so that we can function.

Why Grieve?

The following information is a hybrid of my experience and what I’ve learned from Shirzad Chamine, creator of Positive Intelligence, and how he processed his grief when his 18 year old daughter went off to college for the first time.
If we do the grieving work which is about loving and honoring what is and staying in loving relationship with what has been lost, it creates a space for appreciating what is the next chapter. We can’t move on unless we close the previous chapter with celebration, love and honoring.  Grieving is a critical skillset; otherwise being human is so difficult. Our mind is wired for the negative and being hyper-self-protective. It is impossible to get out of our own landscape and truly love others when we don’t feel safe and supported.
Let’s be there for each other through heart breaking moments of grieving. The only way to do that is to heal ourselves first. We must learn to honor our feelings and let go.  Our happiness usually has nothing to do what we’ve been holding onto.  For example, Shirzad felt the visceral pain of his daughter’s absence when she went away to college, but as he did the deeper healing work, he realized it had nothing to do with her, but had everything to do with his own feelings of abandonment as a child.

What Is The Grieving Process?

  1. Activate the part of our brain that is wise (the sage brain) and thus create a safe container, calming our nervous system.
  2. Do this by being present to the moment, such as any of these following ways:  lightly rubbing our fingertips together, breathing deeply, focusing on sights, focusing on sounds around us, etc.–anything that brings our attention to the present moment.
  3. Investigate our feelings. Allow the grief and pain to move through us by inviting the thought and memory causing the pain.
  4. Deeply appreciate exactly what’s present for us right now with deep love and gratitude for what’s been and is no longer here.
  5. Determine what action is needed, if any, as our sage will see what’s really going on.
a. Do we need to set a boundary with someone because they are mistreating us, not out of anger but out of clarity that what they are doing is not OK with us? The sage will be able to discern this.
b. Or does our painful response originate with old stuff about us that needs healing, like abandonment, feeling shame, etc.
c. Clarity comes from our sage, not anger. There is no wisdom to be gained from a brain highjacked by sabotuers such as anger, resentment, and grudges, except in the initial feeling to investigate. Let’s not waste time here. We will know we’ve been derailed by our saboteurs if all we can focus on is revenge and anger.

Hope And Healing Are Possible

I’d love to support you through this healing journey of grief so you can rediscover what it feels like to feel safe and supported and move forward into a more beautiful future.  It is possible to alchemize your pain into progress.  Let’s honor what has been and is no longer here. Register for my upcoming Heal Your Heart experience. 
I’d love to support you through this healing journey of grief so you can rediscover what it feels like to feel safe and supported and move forward into a more beautiful future. It is possible to alchemize your pain into progress. Let’s honor what has been and is no longer here. Register for my upcoming Heal Your Heart experience.
Much Love,
Angie Monko,
Holistic Divorce/Loss Coach