Grief is a Gift

Grief is a natural response to loss. Sudden losses, such as the death of a friend or loved one to suicide, are harder to handle. Dealing with the emotions that occur in the grieving process takes time and energy, and is usually both physically and emotionally demanding.

When loss and grief are too much to manage we may choose to push our grief to one side and not engage with the emotions. We may think that if we avoid our feelings for long enough they will fade away.

But trying to ignore our pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. Anecdotal evidence suggests that living with unresolved pain has long-term negative effects on emotional and physical health.

Every grief is an intimate and intensely personal experience. Although grief can be heart-wrenching it is not something to fear.

“Grief is a gift.”

Christian leader and author Pete Deison was married for 43 years. His wife Harriet was a gifted floral designer. She also suffered from chronic depression. Harriet took her life. Deison writes,

“Traversing the landscape of grief is not a journey of choice; it’s one that is forced on you. But it is full of purpose.”

Despite grief being a difficult experience, it is also a wise teacher. Grief forces us to grapple with life in a way no other emotion has the power to do. It raises questions, prompting us to wrestle with the how and why of living.
American writer and theologian, Frederick Buechner says,

“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.”

Grief can be a transformative event when fully experienced. It brings an appreciation of the preciousness of life. It reminds us ’Life is short. Learn to value it.’

Grief informs us life is fragile and can’t be taken for granted. There are no guarantees. Circumstances may conspire to cut our life short.

Grief is a special kind of suffering. It strips us back to our essential being. It challenges our ideas and attitudes. It exposes our trivial notions and opposes our vain pursuits. It overcomes our fear and reticence, instilling in us a renewed strength and purpose.

Novelist Cheryl Strayed challenges our view of suffering. She says,

“You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it.”

Grief is also protective. It shields us from the sting of death. Without the ability to grieve, we would be engulfed by the enormity of our loss. It would destroy us. There would be no opportunity to process the diverse feelings and emotions that overwhelm us.

Grief is foundational to self-discovery. It invites us to explore aspects of our daily lives we usually try to ignore – anger, guilt, fear, loneliness, abandonment.

Grief provides us with a ‘new normal.’ It is ‘what we are to become.’ Anne Coke expresses this thought beautifully in her poem.

You cannot jettison grief                                                                                                                                                                                                      For it is solid and heavy                                                                                                                                                                                                         A stone building block                                                                                                                                                                                                    But look! It has become                                                                                                                                                                                                        The cornerstone, the foundation                                                                                                                                                                                       On which is built                                                                                                                                                                                                                      What you are to become

Life after a tragic loss is never the same. The world and our place in it are altered. We experience life differently. We think differently. We see differently.

We are more committed to living intentionally – loving, sharing, caring, communicating.

We know the experience of pain and are able to offer comfort to those who are hurting.

We see grief as a catalyst for action – bringing healing and wholeness to the broken; wisdom and understanding to the confused; and hope and joy to the despairing.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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