Sunday Morning Musings: I have always appreciated the Charlie Brown expression “Good grief”. I do not know what the cartoonist (Charles Schultz) intended having his main character utter this expression, but many other folk also use it to express a form of frustration. However, over the years the expression has been used to remind me that if there is “good” grief there can also be “bad” grief. That is not to say that grieving itself is bad for us, just that there are elements of grieving that can have positive rather than negative outcome in our lives.
It is not earth-shattering news to say that grieving happens in our lives due to more things than just the death of a loved one. Grief is about loss. The loss of a loved one causes grief, but so does the end of a relationship. Sometimes, these other losses are referred to as “little deaths”. Big or little losses, we need to grief.
Sometimes however, grief is not recognized for what it is or what is happening to us. Secondly, grief really doesn’t follow a pattern as earlier studies of grieving have often been interpreted. I respect the work done by such people as Elisabeth Kuebler- Ross as she outlined the “stages of grief” (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). However, my experience has taught me that these stages are interwoven and not stationary. By stationary I mean that once we have entered the next stage we are done with the previous one. Grief moves back and forth.
Not only does everyone grief differently, those things that can trigger a “reoccurrence” are different and may get pulled when we least expect it. Anniversary dates, birthdays, a song, seeing someone who reminds of that which we have lost…the list seems endless. Good grief begins by recognizing that is happening to us; recognizing that something has triggered something inside us. Once we can name what is happening we can begin to deal with it.
One of the most common feelings that grief can create in us is that of feeling all alone. Even a very “religious” or “spiritual” person who has a good relationship with the one they call “God” can feel abandoned and all alone. For those who do not have or have not nurtured such a relationship might even tell the spiritual person that they are alone and that this just proves the even their “God” (if God were to exist) has left them high and dry.
Good grief acknowledges all that is happening from the disorientation and numbness that often is our first response to loss to the sense of feeling all alone. Even surrounded by good friends and family, there can still be a feeling of loneliness. The thing to remember (and it is likely the most difficult) is that we are never alone. We have never been alone – love is with us always. I have often joked with those preparing for marriage that “you can’t live on love alone”, which is true, in the sense that we need food and water at least. Yet, the basis for opening ourselves to even these basics is love. A good grief recognizes that we have always been loved, and always will be. Even when we may not recognize it, love is there. It may reveal itself in the most unlikely places or objects or people, but love is there.
In our aloneness and our grief, we need to know there is that which is called “good grief” and all we have to do is allow ourselves to be open to it.