Grief And Control

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Grief could be defined as the response to a change in a customary pattern of living. But people change their lives all the time and these disruptions don’t necessarily elicit grief. On the contrary, they elicit joy when they’re the outcome of the decision to grow and self-actualize.

By making this distinction we can see that an important underlying psychological factor in whether or not a change in a customary pattern of living elicits grief is control. It’s the feeling of personal efficacy. Did people make the change happen or did it happen to them? When change occurs without say so the likely response is grief.

It’s useful to keep this idea in mind because people usually stay at the level of actual circumstances, of the concrete factors that have changed, bemoaning the loss of this or that variable without recognizing that a good portion of their psychic pain stems from the fact that at the deeper level they once felt personal efficacy in their lives and all of a sudden they don’t. They now feel like leaves blowing in the wind, subject to forces completely outside of their control.

Therefore an essential part of moving through grief, in addition to letting go of how things were, is to regain personal efficacy by making conscious decisions about how to construct life as it stands under these changed circumstances. Part of the reason people can’t let go of how things were is because they didn’t have any say in the matter and it just feels wrong. The personal affront makes them blind to the fact that there are still many possibilities for a happy life, just under different conditions than they hoped for or expected.