Good Grief

Be Well Be Happy

I want to preface this article by saying that I am certainly not an expert on the topic of “grief” but I do have some thoughts that I would like to share on that subject. I can assure you that this is not going to be a depressing article about death. Dealing with death and dying and its after effect of grief are a fact of life and for me it helps to talk about it, laugh about it, cry about it and apparently write about it. After recently losing three people dear to me within six weeks starting the beginning of June, there are some things about grief and grieving that have become very clear to me. One of the first things I have recognized is that not only is it ok to grieve, but it’s very necessary and is actually part of the gift (strange as it may seem) that we receive when we love deeply.

What I saw so clearly in dealing with these recent losses is that I actually wanted to feel the grief! Feeling the grief helped me to feel connected to the person/people who had recently passed away. What I didn’t want was for one of my truly well-meaning family members or friends to try to “snap me out of it” by saying things like “well, he’s in heaven now” or “you’ll see her again” or any other positive slogan that is supposed to help fix the sadness and make you feel better. It is actually more interruptive of the process of grieving for me when someone tries to “snap me out of it.” What I found/find most helpful is the person who can sit with you in your sadness and grief. A good listener, someone who can be there with you, allowing you to express what you’re feeling without telling you that you need to be feeling something else. A quote from Earl Grollman encapsulates it beautifully: “the only cure for grief is to grieve.”

In living 60 years on this planet I have seen many different sides of death and dying. My experiences have caused me to contemplate many of the big unanswered questions about life: Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? Will we see one another again? Another gift I have received from losing people dear to me, is that no matter what our beliefs may be in regard to what happens to us when we die, it is living life to the fullest now that is the best thing we can do while we are here. The thought, “don’t waste one minute of this life,” is something that is always going through my head at this point in time. On the other hand, there is also the process of grieving we go through when we are forced to learn to live without someone we love. How do we balance what seem to be two opposing thoughts? “I am sad, heartbroken and distraught,” on the other hand “live life to the fullest and try to enjoy every moment you can.” Here’s what I find interesting, they are not opposing thoughts and grieving is part of “living life to the fullest,” but I also think we need to be aware of when “good grief” becomes “GOOD GRIEF!” It’s different for each of us, and of course it most certainly depends on just who that person is that we have lost as to how deeply we grieve and how long that grieving continues before we can let go.

Let me end with a poem that was written by one of the dear friends that I lost this past July. He had written this for me when I lost my father suddenly, almost 25 years ago. I’m not quite sure I understood it then when I was thirty-five, but these days I think of its sentiment often and I understand what he was trying to say.

“Like the brief life of a butterfly fills the world with its beauty, we must fill the small space of life we have surrounded by wonderful things, and only allow the grief to be as short as can be.”

- Joseph Salerno


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