Grief & Belief – Transforming the Assumptive World

Grief & Belief – Transforming the Assumptive World - image  on


Grief is a house

where the chairs

have forgotten how to hold us

the mirrors how to reflect us

the walls how to contain us

~Jandy Nelson – The Sky is Everywhere


by Glynis Sherwood


Death – and other forms of serious loss – are shocks to the heart and mind.  At best, profound loss challenges our belief systems or faith and, at worst, violates our world view.  To some extent we all get up each day assuming that the world is a relatively safe and predictable place – that our loved ones, our health and our work will continue to be there for us.  Loss – especially sudden or catastrophic loss – threatens these beliefs, and we can feel deeply upset and anxious having our beliefs – or ‘assumptive world’ -disturbed.


Human beings have a tendency to disbelieve or dismiss events that endanger our beliefs about how the world works.  This reaction starts in the early days of loss, when we are in shock, and just can’t accept the loss that has taken place.  Our beliefs and assumptions are literally shaken up by the loss, turning our world upside down.  As we go through normal grief, the reality of the loss begins to set in, sometimes causing a crisis of faith.


So the process of grief is not just about mourning the absence of that which has been lost, but also a coming to terms with the disruption of our view of the world, including our belief systems and, in some cases, our spiritual faith.  How well we cope with the challenges of grief to our ‘assumptive world’ will influence our emotional resilience, and ability to rebound from the pain of loss.


Healing from grief involves an ongoing process of coming to terms with loss, new realizations about the nature of loss and how it impacts our lives, and new meaning making.  Because our minds naturally resist the finality of loss, we have to mentally process accepting it over and over again.  In order to heal from the pain of grief, it is essential to eventually accept that the loss has occurred, and will likely transform some or all of our lives.  The transformation of our beliefs – or world view – is part of that process of normal, healthy grieving.


To do good grief work we will likely find ourselves reviewing the loss over and over again, to try and make sense of our experience.  This is why grief is often described as a wave or spiral, and not a linear process.  Through repeatedly confronting our losses in healthy doses, rather than simply avoiding them, they become more real. Over time, new meaning and beliefs stemming from loss emerge and become integrated into the fabric of life. For example, widows or divorced folks may discover that they can lead more independent lives or possibly marry again.  People of faith may find that their spirituality becomes stronger.


Grieving people need permission to change and to adjust to their evolving belief systems and reconstructed lives.  Peer group support can play a helpful role in providing comfort, reassurance and perspective as people adapt to the reality of their loss.  For those experiencing a crisis of faith, counselling can be an essential asset to recovering their psychological well being.

photo credit: Janesdead via photopin cc


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Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, specializes in recovery from Grief and Loss, Low Self Esteem, Anxiety, Depression, Scapegoating, and Addictive Behaviors.