Have you ever lost a close relationship or an important person in your life? Grief will impact all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, relationship, pet, or way of life, grief does not discriminate. During times of loss, it can be difficult to find the right platform to process and discuss what you’re going through. Grief is not confined to a single loss but a series of losses as we acclimate to a new way of life.
While people need year-round grief support, August 30 is Grief Awareness Day, a dedicated time for people to communally share their grief and create awareness for others. We will unpack some ways to honor your personal loss and understand how to educate others on your grief experience.
How long should you grieve?
There’s no set duration for grieving — no hard and fast “rules” or expectations for how long someone should grieve. That said, some general timelines align with initial vs. larger grief symptoms. It can also be helpful to consider the stages of grief and types of grief that one may walk through.
While grief is very individualized and occurs without time constraints, it is helpful to consider the initial grief phase. Initial grief is adjusting to the loss itself — it’s a cascade of losses as you try to acclimate to a new way of life.
You will likely be moving through the first two grief stages, denial and anger. At this stage, you are taking in information and working to be able to communicate about the loss with others and yourself. You may notice that denial assists with pacing your grief instead of getting overwhelmed. Some of the symptoms that accompany denial and anger are:
- State of shock
- Avoiding reminders of the loss
- Considering “Why me?” or how unfair your situation is
- Questioning your beliefs
It’s common for initial grief symptoms to ease after 6 months. The length of the initial grief and which stages of grief you go through are unique to you. Therefore, you may notice a different timetable compared to family members or friends.
The larger scope of grief occurs after there has been some time since your loss. At this point, you may need emotional support and are moving towards acclimating to the loss. Grief is never resolved, as it is a part of our ever-changing story. It is helpful to understand that some specific instances can evoke grief, like holidays, anniversaries, or crucial days that surround a lost relationship or person.
Some of the stages you may notice as you walk through grief after 6 months are bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some of these symptoms include:
- Grappling with the meaning behind the loss
- Isolating oneself from others or reaching out to others
- Sharing the loss with a family member or friend
- Being overwhelmed with daily tasks
- Exploring new routines and patterns
Larger grief symptoms often resolve within 1 to 2 years.
The larger grief resolve may seem like quite a long time — especially considering society’s expectations. We’re often expected to grieve and then quickly return to our everyday life as soon as possible. We need to create spaces and relationships where we can grieve as needed on pivotal days. This may include taking a mental health day off from work, asking family and friends to give you space to journal, or inviting family over to have a meal. It is specific to you and what you need on pivotal days in your grief process.
What is Grief Awareness Day?
Grief Awareness Day is celebrated each year on August 30.
Grief Awareness Day educates people about grief and holds space for loss. The day was founded by Angie Cartwright in 2014 to open the public dialogue about grief. Some of the education included in Grief Awareness Day is to share the grief process and types of grief. Additionally, the day supports those grieving through connection and shares ways to honor loss.
Why do we need Grief Awareness Day?
Part of Grief Awareness Day is raising awareness among the public about grief. There can be psychoeducation on what grief is, as well as helping society understand that grief is not fixable.
One grief advocate, author, and clinician, Megan Devine, outlines how to check one’s expectations with grief (Check your expectations about grief). Devine has authored different journals and books and hosts a podcast to educate people about their grief experience and being a support person for others.
Whether you are a grieving individual who could use an outline to share your grief or are a support person who wants to understand the grief process more, Grief Awareness Day is for you.
4 ways to observe Grief Awareness Day
Since grief is observed and gone through uniquely, the observance of Grief Awareness Day should be as well. Below you will find some possible ways to commemorate Grief Awareness Day. These are just a few examples — you know yourself best, so consider which option may be best for you.
1. Reach out to a friend, family member, or support group.
One way to celebrate Grief Awareness Day is to connect with a friend, family member, or support group. You may want to share a story of a loved one that celebrates their life or how you lost that relationship. It’s imperative to hold the space to express your emotions around the event.
If you do not have a support group, it may be worth finding one. Psychology Today is a great resource to explore support groups or therapists in your area. Connect Couples Therapy and In-Session Psych also have clinicians who specialize in working with individuals and couples in Charlotte, NC, and Carefree, AZ, who working through their grief.
2. Take time to check in with yourself and plan self-care.
If you’re not keen on sharing your grief with others, try carving out some time for yourself. Grief self-care may look like journaling a memory or taking stock of your feelings. There is also a strategy called Grief Doodling that provides prompts and encouragers folks to grieve through drawing. This may be helpful if drawing is more cathartic and relaxing than expressing yourself in words.
Remember, our self-care needs change regularly, so Grief Awareness Day is a great time to evaluate what you need in your season of life. You may need to write a letter of closure for yourself or evaluate the boundaries you have presently set with family, friends, or a previous partner.
3. Remember the different types of grief and losses.
It can be helpful to recall the different types of grief and loss. For some, it is losing a person; for others, a relationship or the loss of something else entirely, like a way of life. Grief Awareness Day brings all types of grief and loss so people can mourn together.
For example, some may be grieving the loss of a child. It may be helpful to hold the space for a mom or dad to share their child’s story. The act of sharing and listening can bring similar grief together and build connection.
4. Increase grief awareness by posting on your social media with #NationalGriefAwarenessDay
Lastly, there is the opportunity to share and educate others about the impact and power of grief. You can use social media to share your grief experience with the hashtag #NationalGriefAwarenessDay. [impact of sharing]
You don’t have to suffer through grief
Grief will impact each person in some way throughout their life. You can care for yourself, work through your grief, and help educate and inspire others around this crucial issue.
We know grief can feel difficult to work through. It ebbs and flows throughout the years. Our therapists can help you process your grief and eventually accept your loss. Schedule an appointment today to get the support you deserve with a qualified therapist to support you through your grief.
Our practice offers in-person appointments in Charlotte, NC, and Carefree, AZ. We also have virtual sessions available for those who live in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started.