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Opportunity in Grief

by | Guest Blog

I am weeping. I fell again. It is another moment of grief in my life. My losses have occurred over time – sometimes big with intense grief and sometimes little losses over a long time so that I do not even notice until I cannot do something that used to be easy.  I have started to fall a lot in recent months. I fall over biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and sometimes in my driveway. I can watch how my thinking has gotten slower and more confused – a terrifying loss as someone who values my intellect so highly. And sometimes my legs simply will not do what I want at times because of weakness. I get frustrated and then allow the sadness to come.

I was diagnosed with MS in 1996. The symptoms ended my career as an ON /Gyn in 2000. I felt like I lost who I was. The grief was dark, and it took two years to engage with the world again. That grief has never gone away.  I have big spells of grief and dribbles of grief.

Grief is part of everyone’s life. Conscious aging requires grieving. Grief comes from feeling separated from someone or something that we valued. Our culture does not want us to grieve because it requires acknowledging that we are not in control.  If we are willing to grieve – feel and acknowledge the pain of loss, that is the portal to grace.

I cannot fix it or change it, and neither can you.  It is the inevitable suffering of being human. And in those moments, if I quiet myself, I can feel myself held by something greater that I call Grace. If I can allow the vulnerability, I can connect to you. You have felt this way as well and may be willing to hold a space for me to feel sad. In that moment, the suffering becomes ours – not mine or yours but shared.

And I am working on allowing you to help me in those moments. Give me a hand up when I fall. Have patience as I speak and search for a word or a concept. Give me an arm when I wobble. And please don’t pity me or express pure sympathy.  Pity makes me feel separate from you and I hate pity. 

It is tough to accompany another in grief. Each person’s journey is unique to their story, personality, and situation. The grief never goes away.  How time impacts grief depends on the quirky aspects of each person’s circumstances.  To accompany someone in grief means being willing to provide a safe silence to listen to them. In that listening, grace shows up and a shift or healing happens. That is also why grief groups are so important and effective. One can grieve in a community with shared experience.

Grief is a lifelong journey up to the moment of death. My encouragement is not to avoid grief or someone grieving because there is an opportunity there. For the griever, the opportunity is finding more of themselves, heal, integrate, and be held by grace. For someone willing to be with another’s grief, it is an opportunity for a closer relationship with allowing love to speak louder than the words that are so difficult to find. There are moments of human intimacy that change your heart forever. The willingness to be with another’s grief allows the possibility of integration of your own grief. Both the griever and the human accompanying can find the Grace that is always there if we quiet ourselves enough to notice.