How do I survive grief?
Megan DevineApril 8th, 2021
Well, you survive grief because you have a community, whatever that looks like for you, in real life or online, or a combination of things. You have a community that is strong enough to withstand the solution of your life. You have a community who is able to companion you and support you without trying to fix it. Community is the best indicator for survival.
Nobody has a perfect community. People suck at this, just across the board. But the people who seem to do well, and well in air quotes, they have good emotional self-regulation, they know the situations that tend to be harder for them and know how to care for themselves when things go even more sideways. They know how to ask for help and tell the truth about what's really happening. That's what I think of as good outcomes for people. The people who seem to have the most of that are the ones who have community. They're the ones who have places where they can go and say, “This f*cking sucks. Father's Day is bullsh*t.” And have people just say father's season is bullsh*t? Do you want to tell me about how it's bullshit for you today? Those are the people who are doing quote unquote, well.
The ones who are constantly dismissed, who are constantly judged or told to get over it or your loss is not that bad, I lost my goldfish when I was nine. That sort of antagonistic judgment, even with good intentions behind them, those are the kind of things that give us poor outcomes and complicated grief.
Poor outcomes are things like pervasive suicidality, isolation, depression, anxiety, unmanageable emotional swings. That doesn't mean that your emotions go away, but it's having a way to contain and support yourself within whatever it is that is happening for you, socially and emotionally.
We've got 50(ish) years of data on what happens when we ignore grief or treat it as a medical disorder. When we do, we get spikes in suicidality, drug addiction, social isolation, all of these really poor outcomes. If we're good scientists, we look at that data and choose a different experiment.
What happens if we look at grief in a completely different way, and we treat it as part of the human condition, as an expression of love?
What if we try treating it with acknowledgement, support and kindness and skills that help people manage the reality rather than talk them out of the reality? Let's run a new damn experiment.”