Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Grief Cafe

When a loved one dies, survivors join the Club. There are no dues and only one initiation rite, which we’ve already gone through. A glance in the eyes is enough to tell who is a member. But to participate in the Grief Café, you have to open the door.

It doesn’t matter who died or under what circumstances, whether it was our spouse, parent, sibling, child, or stillborn infant. We loved them and our hearts are broken.

When we realize that we don’t grieve well in private, when we realize that most of our friends do not know what to say, we open the door to the Café and find people who understand. And when we take the risk of sharing our grief with others, we begin to reclaim what’s left of our lives.

We understand grief in the Café. We accept each other as we are. We listen to what grief is doing in each other’s lives and help each other discover the way that we each need to grieve. We do not say, “It will be okay,” because it will never be okay that our loved ones died, to quote Megan Devine. We do not say, “It’s time that you moved on” because that’s something only you can decide. With the help of each other, we will get through this. We will never give in, and we will never let each other give up.

While the terrain of our losses is different, the same river flows through them.

Members of the Grief Café are not always obvious when we’re walking down the street, and it’s considered creepy to walk up to a stranger and whisper, “Do you grieve?” But begin talking about sorrow, grief, or death, and we know the chapter and page of grief’s manual you’re on.

Sometimes we may seem indifferent to the news of another tragedy because on some days all the death and suffering going on around us become too much. Some days we are overwhelmed by our own grief and we have to step away for a time. We are not surprised by the news, because so many people die unexpectedly and so many die young, but inside we feel our hearts and spirits drop.

Sometimes we are hyper-protective about preventing accidents. Sometimes we overreact to sniffles. We may have to say “I love you” every time a family member or a friend walks out the door, because we know there are no do-overs. People die suddenly. All the time. People we love.

The Grief Café has many members, including some who won’t admit that they belong.

In deep gratitude this holiday season for the brave, compassionate, and funny members of the Grief Café at Refuge in Grief.


  1. Card-carrying member since 2009. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  2. Yes, thank you, Mark. It's a powerful image and you've worked with it so well. Beautiful writing. I'm sharing it on my FB author page.

    1. Thank you, Elaine, and thank you for sharing it.

  3. Mark, nice to make your acquaintance, even under these grief circumstances. The motto I use for the work I do on healing is "We are neighbors in grief and allies in healing." Thanks for setting a place at the table for those who want to connect, share, grow, and heal...

    Yours in hope, healing, and happiness...

    ~Annah Elizabeth