I know from experience—and I suspect that you know as well—that grief is not linear. When I lost my wife, I didn’t move predictably from one emotion to the next. Sometimes, I even wondered if something was wrong when my feelings swirled again.
This the reason we created the Survive-Alive-Thrive model of loss recovery to be emotionally inclusive. Rather than limiting a grief model to a set of specific emotional responses to be checked off in linear fashion, the Survive-Alive-Thrive model is emotionally inclusive by design. By inclusive, I mean that multiple and varied emotional responses are included in each stage of the grief journey, many of which can be present and continue along in each stage of the healing process. Our emotional responses may lessen in intensity, but they can stay with us throughout our progression, even when achieving emotional happiness and joy in the Thrive stage of your journey, those same emotions can still present themselves.
This is not a bad thing though, and it is an important concept to visualize in light of the incredibly broad nature of emotional responses that are present and experienced by each of us. While there are debates within the academic and professional psychology communities about the number of emotions a human can experience (for example, a 2017 study at UC Berkeley lists twenty-seven human emotions vs. the traditionally held model of only six), because we are so varied and complex, what makes us truly unique is how these variables coexist and interact in times of loss.
For example, sadness and anxiety are examples of emotional responses we can all experience in times of loss and brokenness. These have the potential to affect each of us. Certain emotional responses are healthy and can lead to happiness and joy, while others can be destructive and have negative consequences. The challenge is to mitigate those emotions that are unhealthy, paralyzing, and destructive while harnessing the power of those that are positive and healing. For you, one emotion may be more latent or dormant than in a friend or family member going through a similar experience. An emotion may also surface in the same person in one loss situation but not in another. For example, many of the emotional responses I experienced when losing my mother in 2000 were significantly different from when I experienced my wife’s death sixteen years later. Those emotional responses, although present during both losses, manifested quite differently and had different levels of intensity and frequency.
Freedom to Feel
Once we understand that we don’t simple “move past” an emotion, we can instead focus on processing our emotions in a healthy way. And the more we heal the more space we have to process. I hope that the resources on this site help you start to put your emotional response in perspective. Please visit our Sharing Center for stories and questions from survivors like yourself. At Survive-Alive-Thrive believe that sharing leads to healing.