Relief & Grief
When you think of grief, whether it was your own experience or a loved one who was walking through their own grief journey, what comes to mind? What emotions are believed to be part of the grieving experience? Does sadness, confusion, frustration, anger, etc. come to mind? How about relief? Wait what? That’s typically seen as a positive emotion; is it possible that could be part of one’s grieving experience?
Yes! It is! For those who have lost a loved one to a chronic terminal illness paired with suffering and fighting for their life, they can experience a sense of relief knowing their loved one has finally been released from the pain. At times, unfortunately, this relief can carry some (or a lot in certain cases) guilt for the griever; making for a difficult grief journey. They may wonder, “Does this relief mean I don’t care about him/her/them?” or “Does this relief mean I don’t miss him/her/them?” How could one not have these wonders? Especially, when our lived experience challenges what we expect when grieving.
I want to assure you, relief in your grief does not diminish your feelings towards your deceased loved one. It does not determine if you care about your loved one. “What if my relief comes from the fact that I don’t have to be the caregiver for my loved one anymore?” Even still, relief in your grief does not determine whether you care about your loved one or not. It is a natural human response to the ending of a circumstance (or time in your life) that brought you and those around you a lot of stress.
To honor this natural response, I invite you to explore the following questions to begin reframing the guilt and validating the relief:
- What did this tough circumstance teach you?
- What did this tough circumstance bring into your life?
- How might the relief you’re experiencing allow you to honor your grief journey?
- If you were able to talk to your loved one about this relief, what would they tell you?
Regardless of the type of emotions your grief journey carries, know any and all are validate and a natural human response to the loss of someone you displayed love and affection towards.
Here’s to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT