From grief to relief

I’ve been working on a presentation for a conference at the weekend.

It’s about disenfranchised grief.  That’s grief that isn’t openly acknowledged, can’t be publicly mourned and, as a result, isn’t supported by society or those around us.

Grief is what we experience after a loss.  We feel it because someone or something matters.  Therapist David Defoe calls grief, “a condition of the heart”.  That’s where it hurts.

We tend to think of grief as what follows the death of a loved one.  But we can feel grief about any sort of change or experience that feels like we’ve lost something important.

That includes feeling grief when who we are is judged or unwelcome.  And leaves us feeling out of sync, misunderstood, even unsafe.

That sort of grief is something I saw in lots of my counselling clients whose way of being and processing the world is different from ‘the norm’.  People with (it turned out) auditory processing issues, autism, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, face & building blindness, and synaethesia.

And it was also true of my HSP clients.

As a counsellor, what I witnessed time and again was how deep sorrow can run when people feel different but don’t know why.

And I also witnessed magic unfold when they found a name or an explanation for their experience and difference.  I felt that sort of magic myself when I found out I was a Highly Sensitive Person.

When confusion changes into understanding, that’s when grief turns into relief and sorrow into smiles.

It’s also when being who we are becomes something to connect to, not hide from.