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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kinder, Gentler Grief

I let myself be vulnerable to someone by sharing a feeling without knowing how this person would react.

This is a big step when death has taken away a loved one and left you in shock. Sharing your feelings is an enormous risk because you already feel unsteady and don’t want to lose anything you have left.

This person could ignore what I shared, take advantage of me, or reject it and never speak to me again. A beginning friendship could end because I chose to share my feeling.

When I was in the midst of my grieving, I was a fountain of emotions and shared my struggles with anyone who would listen. Many people didn’t understand grief. They listened for a month and then said that I should get over my grief and move on. We no longer talk much. If you weren’t willing to listen to what had ripped me apart inside, then what we had was superficial.

Grief has taught me that there are too many important matters going on for me to spend my time being superficial.

Now, some time later in grief, there is a difference. I no longer have the driving need to tell everyone that the world has changed because my wife died. I’ve come to realize that only my world changed. Today I pick people I think will understand, those who know about grief and its ways. They are helping me understand the longer journey of grief.

Relationships grow when people stand vulnerable before each other and take risks.

Not everyone will want to be a friend of someone who wants to talk about death. But some will, and slowly my world is being repopulated with people who appreciate the mystery and beauty of grief.

For a long time after death broke my heart open and battered it around, I protected everything I had left. The only way I made it through grief was to be brutally honest with myself, dealing with the emotions and thoughts as they came. I want to continue living honestly like this, because it serves no purpose to hide. I have nothing left to lose and much to gain.

I shared my feeling with that person simply because I was feeling it. I sat with it for a day to make sure it was real. It was scary to share it because it could change the nature of a relationship I value, although I didn’t think it would. Even if it had been a spontaneous feeling, it would have been all right to share because the spontaneous rise from our true selves. In the past I would have let my feeling slide away as unimportant, which is saying that my feelings weren’t important. I don’t want to close down and go back to the way I was. People didn’t know who I was back then.

By sharing, I am also being gentle with myself. I will neither do, nor not do, something because of feeling that I should say or do something. I will be who I am, say what I feel, do what I feel like doing. Grief has freed me, and it does violence to my spirit to scold and hold it back. Life is a lot more interesting when everyone is themselves and not trying to be clones of some imaginary ideal. I want to know who you are.

When I am wrong and hurt someone, I will ask forgiveness. I will learn and grow kinder. This is part of being human.

I want to live with an open heart. I want to be compassionate in everything I say and do, both toward other people and myself.

I wrote this in Red Lodge, Montana, on the outdoor patio of Café Regis, as I watched clouds move over the Beartooth Mountains. The café was started by Jane Ferguson because of her concern for healthy eating. She died in a river accident in 2004. Her husband, Gary, is a nature writer and recently published a book about his grief and taking her ashes to outdoor places that were important to them. The book is called The Carry Home, and it’s worth your time.

Related Post


  1. I understand what you mean by your world being repopulated with people who will talk about death. Strange how that happens. Thank you for this.

  2. And what a relief it is, Robin, to know that these courageous, compassionate people are scattered all around us.