Two people in my life died this week: on Monday, my upstairs neighbor who moved into her condo the same day that I moved into mine; on Wednesday, a cousin in Ohio who, like many of you, was a reader of this blog. Consequently, today I am reflecting about grief.
Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. (Wikipedia)
There are many books and articles about how we respond to loss, the grieving process itself, as well as advice on ways to resolve our grief. In the past, I found some of these to be very helpful in understanding my own reactions to loss. I have also been helped a great deal by a wise psychologist, and gentle and understanding family and friends.
It seems to me that there is no right or wrong way to grieve – no shoulds or should nots. Not only is the grieving process different for each person, even within the same person the process is different with each loss. I recognize that some of this difference can be accounted for with age and maturity. For example, losing a sibling when one is 10 years old is not the same as when one is 60. It’s not a question of more or less grief; it’s just different.
Yet, there may be times when our reactions to grief are completely unexpected. We might assume that the closer you are to someone the greater the grief, and the longer the grieving period. For the most part, that is true. Yet there are times when we feel a loss very deeply for someone we might not have known all that well. My own explanation is that we each carry around a “pool” of grief within us. With each loss, including loss of a job, loss of reputation, loss of health, etc., the pool fills. Then one day, with a loss that might not even touch us personally, the pool spills over in a reaction that is not explainable.
I believe that time helps us to manage our personal grief. Further, I believe that prayer helps us to find comfort and peace within our losses and to see our grief as a connection to others around us. Not that we can ever say to someone else, “I know exactly what you’re feeling”, but we can acknowledge that someone else’s grief pool is rising, and we do know what that is like.
I would like to suggest two books that I have found helpful in facing loss: The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm by Harold S. Kushner (Anchor, 2004), and Praying Our Goodbyes: A Spiritual Companion Through Life’s Losses and Sorrows by Joyce Rupp (Ave Maria Press, 2012).