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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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Grief Is

My friend Kelsea said grief is a teacher, a catalyst for change, and a mercy. This started me thinking about what grief is and the roles that grief plays.

Grief teaches us about ourselves, how we deal with extreme stress, sorrow and personal devastation. It tells us how deeply we have loved someone— a spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend — and it teaches us about the stark realities of life, that people we love die, often unexpectedly, and we grieve.

Grief is a catalyst for change because when a big part of our life is ripped away, we are forced to make changes. We may decide that now is the time to adjust our personal habits and do things differently, or it’s time for our life to head in a new direction. We may decide that life is too important to waste on a job we don’t like and find one that nourishes our heart. We may move to a new house or move across the country. We may decide that taking care of people is more important than completing tasks. In Tanzania, community work is done by a group of people, but the work won't begin until everyone has arrive because building fellowship is one of the goals for the work.

Grief is a mercy. Grief gives us time and a protected space to deal with a death, although our boss may give us only a week off, and our friends may expect us to be over grief in 30 days. After the shock and numbness wear off, after we have withstood the bouts of anger and moved through despair, we begin to accept the reality of the death and the existence of a hole in our lives that we suspect will never be filled. If the full force of death were to hit us all at once, we might not survive. 

Grief brings clarity and depth to our understanding of what it means to be human. We see how fragile every person’s life is, and how important compassion is for those who are suffering. We also realize that we only have today to help others with their struggles, because tomorrow one of us may not be here.

Grief is a grace. At a time when we are raging out of our minds and don’t care about eating, sleeping or showering, people show up to take care of us. Filled with compassion, or at least good intentions, they keep us going and guide us back to ourselves. 

Grief is a sanctuary in the midst of a massive thunderstorm that swirls, crashes and thunders around our house.

Grief is a sorrow that fills our heart until it finds its own room.

Grief is not a sadness we go through. It’s a companion that guides us through, taking us across a foreign land from what has been to what will now be.