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Coping with Grief

A difficult, but vitally important, process

At the loss of a loved one, grief is the most natural result. And coping with grief is an uncomfortable proposition for many people. Numerous books by counselors and other experts in psychology give a multitude of tips and ideas for coping with grief. Perhaps the most well known of these is by the renowned Australian counselor Mal McKissock. His book, fittingly titled Coping with Grief, is Grief is a vitally important process that must be endured for good mental healthsought after and recommended again and again by people who are going through the much-discussed “grieving process” and those who help them. The book, like many others on the topic, is a good overview of what the average person can expect to experience after losing a loved-one. And it offers a lot of common sense ideas for helping those people. The one point that it, and almost all of the literature about coping with grief, is careful to make is that, well, there is no such thing as a “typical” experience with grief. Everyone responds to grief differently, and no reaction is more valid than any other. So, coping with grief by identifying various “phases” and responding accordingly, is only a partial fix. But, unfortunately, it is the best fix that experts have found for now.

That said, there would probably be some major damage to society itself if a more thorough fix were possible. All one has to do is consult the famous Aldous Huxley novel A Brave New World to understand this point.

Grieving does not exist in the “brave” (i.e. sanitized) new world Huxley creates so that we can see the drawbacks to our dreams. In fact, no “bad” emotion exists in this world. The idea of coping with grief is difficult for us, but for the people in Huxley’s new world, it is unfathomable. As we have all probably often wished would be the case in reality, the only human emotion possible in this society is pleasure. Everything else has been removed, mechanically in some cases, with a variety of biological and cultural filters. Nevermind coping with grief, grief itself is an alien concept. When people die in this society, they are simply incinerated very quickly; their ashes sent out through sterile smokestacks. Because of the elaborate filters that have been set in place over the course of centuries, the concept of “losing” a loved one is never known by anyone in the society.

This new world might sound Devine at first glance, but, as Huxley shows us, it is actually quite frightening. After all, the ability to grasp the thought of loss - and our own eventual demise - is one of the main assets that sets us apart from other species.

When a person who has not been exposed to the new world’s filters accidentally finds himself in the new world, a large shock results – to both the unfortunate “Savage” and the society itself.

Healing from grief is not quick for most, but it is also not impossible for anyoneWhen the unfiltered man loses his mother (the concept of a mother is also foreign in this new world where all babies come from test tubes in factories), he grieves. And, because the rest of the world does not understand his grief, he threatens to destroy the entire society. Leaders worry that, if the humanness of his grief spreads to others who have been so carefully sanitized, that the stack of cards on which the whole world has been built will tumble down in one quick blow.

So, the “Savage” is, basically, eliminated from the society. And the reader sees how evil that is.

Huxley’s point with this tale (so horrific because it occasionally seems to be a portrait of our current society) is that denying even the most difficult of human emotions, tempting as it is, can be deadly to all of society.

This example shows us how grief is important on many different levels. While we won't go into great detail as to how to cope with grief in this particular article, we would like to point out that facing our grief is the first (and most important) step towards healthy healing. Denying a loss (whether it be of a loved one, pet, or even through a divorce or loss of a job) is simple by our own human nature, as we try to sheild and protect ourselves, and our loved ones, from pain. However, recognizing the importance of the loss and the impact it has upon us can be a great sign of strength, and in itself empowering. As stated, grief is different for everyone - so there are often a number of ways one can go about coping through a loss, such as keeping comforting keepsakes close or creating a tribute website in honor of the departed. The best course of action in coping with grief (or any painful emotion) is to just recognize that it is part of being human. And, for that alone, even the most difficult experiences, are beautiful.

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