Patricia Alvarado is a psychotherapist and owner and director of the group practice, Alvarado Therapy & co-founder of Latinx Healthy Minds providing mental health programs for Latinx professionals.
Within many Latin American cultures, when we think about grief, it is almost always associated with death or dying. We are “de luto” for long periods of time, honoring the dead and finding ways to move forward despite the loss of our loved ones. However, grief is much more than grieving the loss of a loved one due to death, it encompasses loss in any way, shape, or form. I’m a new mama to a beautiful baby boy. He is loving, curious, and I cannot express how much I absolutely adore him. When I think about him, I cannot picture my life without him. He is my path and my new journey.
Grief comes in many forms as it manifests through life transitions that can have an underlying feeling of sadness that encompasses grief. For me, it is noticing how my life was before and how it is now. It is wondering how life would be if I would have continued down one path versus another (bargaining) and thinking about what I am missing out on.
As I reflect on my own grief, I can’t help but continue thinking about how grief manifests itself in different ways. It can be present within relationships, career changes, loss of friendships, and even family dynamics. In thinking about my own past relationships, I remember feeling sadness and depression toward the end of the relationship without realizing that I was actually grieving. In the end, the emotions I was experiencing were directly linked to the loss that I was going through because in that moment, I was not only losing my partner but also my best friend.
You may be familiar with the stages of grief (Sadness, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Anger). These stages are present throughout life transitions because they allow us to name the emotions that are present during times of uncertainty. They help us normalize our experiences and give us hope that one day we can be okay.
Grief can go even further as it can come up through what we wish we had but didn’t get. Within my work, I see this often when we begin to explore family dynamics and wonder why we didn’t have the type of mother others had, the type of father others had, the close family relationships others had, etc. This sense of loss or “missing out” can bring us a great amount of sadness and grief.
With this new found grief, the question may be, “what do we do now?” Here are some helpful tools that can help you as you begin to dig into your own grief:
- Allowing yourself to grieve. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of your “past life” as you navigate your new identity. It’s okay to feel a sense of emptiness or confusion as you explore this new chapter in your life.
- Self-reflection and rediscovery: Take the opportunity to reflect on your values, passions, and strengths through journaling. Explore new interests and surround yourself with supportive people who encourage personal growth.
- Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care during this time of self-reflection. Engage in activities that bring you a sense of joy, such as exercise, spending time in nature, reading, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or pursuing hobbies.
- Maintain Healthy Boundaries: Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is important during the grieving process. Set boundaries to allow yourself the space and time to heal. Pay attention to any discomfort that you feel within specific environments in order to notice what kind of boundaries would be most helpful for you.
- Be nice to YOU: Your grief can be scary and uncomfortable and it is unique to you. Practice empathy and compassion with yourself. Speak to yourself in the same way that you would speak to others.
Reflecting on this, one might feel that closure is necessary after a life transition and instead, I want to bring up the sixth stage of grief: meaning. Finding meaning allows us to sustain love for the experience we had while allowing us to move forward in our own life. This does not mean that the experience was not significant enough but more so, that you have an increased awareness of what you need and how you wish to be moving forward. Finding meaning is not easy to do however just like anything else, it is a choice. We can choose to stay within our pain or we can choose to find meaning through our experiences.
Life is an ever-changing journey filled with transitions, some planned and others unexpected. These changes can often leave us feeling as though we have lost a part of ourselves, leading to a profound sense of grief. Whether it’s the loss of a familiar identity, a sense of purpose, or a cherished relationship, navigating these losses requires courage, self-reflection, empathy and compassion.
Take your time, give yourself space, notice what you need and intentionally create meaning as you go.