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The Un-Natural Response

Hi all! This month, I wanted to do a deeper dive on grief. Maybe because that seems all my brain is focusing on and writing this blog helps me work through that. Or maybe it’s because I am hyperaware of the loss that my friends are experiencing in their lives at this time. I think a lot of people misunderstand grief, or perhaps they have the wrong idea of what grief actually is. Grief doesn’t always equivocate death. Grief is simply the experience of a loss. As humans, we experience loss in many ways. This could be the physical loss of someone. However, it could also be the loss of a person who is still alive.

For example, sometimes personal relationships must be severed in order to protect ourselves. This is still considered a loss of someone. It could also be the loss of a relationship, whether romantic or platonic. Perhaps you have experienced a divorce or friendships have fizzled out. Maybe you have experienced the loss of a job, the loss of financial stability or even a dream you had. Maybe you recently turned older and it caused you to grieve your youth. Whatever it is, grief comes in many shapes and forms. It is an unnatural event in our lives. So… why do we feel as if there should be some “natural” way in which we respond?

The truth is, there is no natural response to grief. Any reaction or response to an abnormal event… is a normal reaction. I have seen people push themselves into their work, surrounding themselves with so much “busy” work that they don’t have time to think about anything else. Others simply disassociate and it takes everything they have them to even get dressed in the mornings. I have seen people become every spectrum of anger to falling into the deepest realm of depression. And sometimes, there is no response. They just simply exist as if life is the same.

I believe it’s pretty common knowledge that there are (allegedly) five stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and then Acceptance. There is some debate as to whether or not a person flows through the stages or whether they just sort of land wherever on any given day. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. In my mind, a person just experiences whatever they need to in order to survive. Sure, sometimes it is those 5. Sometimes it’s some of those. I have even witnessed none of them. So, please, don’t think you have to fold your grief smaller in order to fit into someone else’s box. When it comes to grief, we are all on different timelines. So what took someone “just a few months” to get over, doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty because of your own timeframe.

So, here is my advice and take on grief. The real honest, brutal way of it all… grief is confusing. There are so many emotions mixed in when you are coping with loss. I know in my case, it honestly made me feel selfish. That I was somehow wrong for feeling a multitude of emotions. I even felt guilty for feeling depressed. That, somehow, the loss of my grandfather wasn’t a traumatic event, because he wasn’t my parent.

Maybe you have been there too. Maybe you have felt such sadness at the loss itself, but relieved that your person is no longer in pain. Perhaps when dealing with a divorce, you experienced yearning for your spouse and familiarity, but excitement at another chance with love. Perhaps there is even conflicted feelings of sadness and anger as you had to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. Perhaps you feel guilty for experiencing any type of emotions because “other people have had it harder”. There is no competition in life. You do not win a medal for surviving harder days (although I vote we should). We are all just trying our best to survive. So, show some compassion to those that are struggling. Hell, show compassion anyways. People ARE struggling. Sometimes it’s not always outward. Be kind. Show up. Don’t wait for someone to ask for help. But also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t wait for the water to drown you before you realize you don’t have a lifejacket.

In real-time, all grief is complex. In certain circumstances, grief can evolve into something even more complex. Grief can manifest itself into things beyond just emotional symptoms. Physical symptoms can also appear. Be prepared for that. Look for those symptoms in your friends and even in yourself. When there is a lack of closure, it can be difficult to navigate the waters of grief. When you internalize that the grief that you feel is not “worthy”, it can feel very isolating or invalid. When there is trauma related to the grief itself, it may seem impossible to heal. Embrace the blow, even when it’s hard. Be prepared to go in circles, to take the blows in waves.

Just last week, I was sitting on the couch at 7PM and the harsh, brutal, unsettling reality of loss kicked in. I cried for an hour, when I hadn’t cried in a couple of weeks. There is nothing more unnerving than the realization that someone (or something) you loved is actually gone. It can feel so heavy and impossible to carry on your own.

So let people. Just let them. Let them help you. Let them bring you food. Let them fold the laundry. Let them send groceries. Let them hold you as you cry. Let them hear you vent and tell the same story twice. Let them hear it for the 47th time. Let them. And let yourself. Let yourself feel whatever it needs to feel. Let yourself be confused as you navigate this next journey. Let yourself sit in the thickness and darkness of it all. Let other people love you harder. Allow yourself the grace to process on your own timeline. Attend to your emotions and validate your response. Practice self-care. Take care of yourself. Reach out to others when it feels like it’s too much. Attend therapy. Grief is a series of loops. It, like so much else in the world, is not linear. You may feel better for a few weeks and then find yourself grieving in a grocery store on a random Tuesday at 4:30PM.

There is no “getting over” grief. We simply learn how to adapt and encompass it into our “new” lives. If this entry resonated with you in any way, please be kind to yourself. Do not compare your oranges to a neighbor’s apples. They cannot be equal. And please remember, however you respond to your grief, is normal. It is the natural response because there is nothing natural about grief and loss.

Kelcee Sitzes, M.S. is a graduate student studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in Substance Abuse Disorders. She is employed with Counseling Associates as a Forensics QBHP/Mental Health Liaison and Care Coordinator. She is a wife, girl mom and a plant enthusiast.

If you need help or might need help, please reach out at:

Crisis Line: 988

Text to Chat Crisis Line: 988 (pretty cool new feature)

Arkansas Crisis Center:

Trevor Project: 1-888-488-7386

Trevor Project Text to Chat Crisis Line: 678678

AFSP Arkansas Chapter:

Arkansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center:



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