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Is It Okay to 'Schedule' Your Grief?

Grief is a unique and personal experience. Everyone copes with it differently, and that's okay.

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In her book The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion writes, “grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it”.

We're all struck by grief at some point, but knowing this doesn't quite prepare us to deal with it when it does.

Grief is a natural and psychological response to loss, often involving a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion. It’s a deeply personal experience that can manifest differently for everyone, and affects each of us different ways.

It’s important to allow oneself to feel and process grief in their own way.

For instance, the idea of 'scheduling your grief' might sound like taking an extremely clinical approach to an emotional situation, but for some, it may be the most effective way to cope with their loss.

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‘There Is No Blueprint to Grieving the Right Way'

Grief is often associated with the demise of a loved one, but it can also arise from other significant life changes or losses like significant life changes such as loss of a job or life-altering events.

It’s a complex process that involves emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural reactions.

Grief doesn’t follow a timetable. It is a non-linear journey with highs and lows, twists and turns. It can be triggered by different factors, such as anniversaries, memories, or unexpected situations, which can catch people off guard.

While grief doesn’t follow a strict schedule, establishing a routine or schedule can help in managing its intensity and impact on daily life.

This can include setting aside time for activities that facilitate healing and coping.

For instance, in the sixth episode of the US TV show, Successions fourth season, you may have caught Tom Wambsgans telling his wife Shiv, “You’re scheduling your grief,” after the demise of her father Logan Roy, when she could not sob in front of others and was crying separately.

'Processing Grief While Carrying on With Everyday Life Can be Tricky'

Due to everyday hustle and competition, there are times when we don’t get to process our grief properly.

The question that then arises is, can we schedule our grief to a more convenient time when we can consciously engage with the process?

Scheduling grief isn't the same as avoiding grief.

“In my therapy practice,I have seen people who try to suppress or delay their grief but it always tends to resurface in unexpected ways(and sometimes when they least expect it)," says Gurgaon-based Psychotherapist Shaurya Gahlawa.

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Scheduling grief, on the other hand, involves allocating time each day to focus on grieving, allowing oneself to fully feel emotions without distractions.

So, if anything, this approach can help individuals manage their grief in a structured way while still allowing space for healing and growth.

There Are Some Pitfalls to Scheduling Grief

The scheduling of grief may appear counterintuitive and possibly detrimental. It might even seem like attempting to restrict grief to specific time frames disregards the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of the grieving process.

Moreover, trying to schedule grief can establish unrealistic expectations and pressure on individuals who are already having a hard time grieving.

It might unintentionally convey the message that there is a 'correct' or 'acceptable' timeline for grieving, which can result in feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy if one does not adhere to it.

This can be particularly harmful in a society that frequently expects people to 'move on' or 'get over' their grief within a certain timeframe.

"Attempting to schedule grief can sometimes be counterproductive and may lead to emotional distress because grief follows its own timeline and varies greatly from person to person. Some people may experience intense emotions immediately following a loss, while others may have delayed or prolonged processes," says Gahlawa.

While it may seem structured, it can be a helpful strategy for some individuals who find it challenging to manage their emotions throughout the day.
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How to Schedule Your Grief Effectively

By setting aside designated times to focus on grief, individuals can create a balance between addressing their emotions and engaging in daily activities.

However, it's a tricky line to tow, so here are some things to keep in mind while scheduling your grief.

  • Cut yourself some slack

Flexibility and self-compassion are key, as everyone’s grieving process is unique. Attempting to rigidly schedule grief can sometimes suppress or delay the natural grieving process.

So, according to Gahlawa, its essential to recognise that grief may require flexibility and adaptation based on one’s emotional needs.

It’s important to be patient and compassionate with oneself during this process, as it can take time and may involve ups and downs.
  • Make room for unexpected emotions

While some people may find it helpful to set aside specific times to process their feelings of grief, it’s important to acknowledge that emotions can arise unexpectedly and may require attention at any moment.

  • Scheduling may not be for you

According to Mumbai based psychologist Sophie D’Souza, Scheduling may not be the best way to process grief for everyone.

“Rather than scheduling grief, for some people, it may be more beneficial to make room for it in our lives. This means allowing ourselves to feel and express our emotions as they occur, without any judgment or the pressure to conform to a predetermined timeline."

"This includes practicing self-compassion and being patient with ourselves as we navigate the complexities of loss," she adds.

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  • Seek professional help

Although everyone experiences and processes grief differenly, it can help to do it under the guidance of a professional.

"Our responsibility as mental health professionals is to provide individuals with a secure and unbiased environment where they can explore their feelings, deal with their loss, and develop coping mechanisms during their time of bereavement."
Sophie D’Souza, Psychologist

"We help our clients understand that grief is a natural reaction to loss and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Rather than trying to manage or schedule grief, I encourage my clients to embrace their emotions.” She adds.

Apart from seeking professional help, don't be hesitant to lean on loved ones for support.

(Madhumita Sharma is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who strongly believes that words have the power to transform the world.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mental Health   Emotions   Grief 

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