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, 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 you don’t want to lose anything that you have left.

A deeper relationship could begin or reject it and never speak to me again, all because I chose to share my feeling.

When I was deep in the midst of grief, 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 it and move on. We no longer talk much. If they weren’t willing to listen to what was continuing to restructure my life, then the friendship we had was superficial.

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

Now, some time later, 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. Not everyone will want to be a friend of someone who is comfortable talking about death. But some do, and slowly my world is being repopulated with people who appreciate the mystery and beauty of grief. They are guides on the longer journey of grief.

For a long time after death battered my heart around like a tennis ball, I protected everything I had left. The only way I made it through grief was to be brutally honest with myself and deal with the emotions and thoughts as they came. I want to continue living honestly like this, because hiding serves no purpose. It never did. 

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, 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 was 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 then.

By sharing, I am also being gentle with myself. 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 soul to scold and hold it back. When I am wrong and hurt someone, I will ask forgiveness. I will learn from my mistakes and grow kinder. Life is a lot more interesting when everyone is themselves and not trying to be clones of the same imaginary ideal.

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 want to know who you are. Do not be afraid to tell me.


I'm writing this in Red Lodge, Montana, on the outdoor patio of Café Regis, as I watch 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 Carry Home is worth your time.

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  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.