Grief 101: Is There Value In Suffering?

Grief 101 is the title of my presentation at the Compassionate Friends Conference on July 28, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. It will be a very heartfelt conference and will be attended by over one thousand bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents as well as other friends and family. As I prepare my workshop I ask myself the question, “What can I possibly say that will ease their suffering?” I know the depths of their hurt as a number of years ago our son, Scott and his cousin died in a fiery automobile crash. At the time my pain was so great that I wondered if I could live. The question I have asked myself many times over the years is this, “Was there any value in my suffering?” and

“If so what?” Buddhist teacher Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations: What death can teach us about living is a leading voice in end-of-life care, who takes the view that our greatest teachers are the dying and that suffering is the doorway to compassion. I wondered could this be generalized to the bereaved. Yes, I would have to agree that Scott’s death has been my greatest life’s challenge and thus he has been and is my greatest teacher. However, a class on long suffering would not have been my first choice and I would have gladly skipped the lessens learned, but given no choice I would have to say that I have grown through the experience.

You Can’t Compare Losses

I always find it annoying when people say, “you never get over the death of a child”. The reality is Cirmstances, age of the deceased and the personality traits of the griever all impact the grieving process. You grieve the way you live and one can only know through their own experience the physical as well of the mental impact of loss. You can relate and empathize but you can only truly understand when it has been your own experience. Grief is, as the famous psychiatrist George Engel put it a “biopsychosocial” experience. I heard a woman say only yesterday, “the worse thing that can happen to you is the death of your husband”. Yet, I heard another man say that, “there is nothing like losing your dad”.

So what is it I have learned as I have moved through the field of suffering and through the doorway of hope? I have learned that I am stronger that I thought and that I can bear the unbearable and sit with those in pain without despair as I know they too are stronger than they know. I want to end this blog with a few of the things that I have learned from moving through pain and suffering.

  1. Compassion for others
  2. Compassion for myself
  3. Importance of expressing gratitude
  4. Impermanence of life
  5. Sometimes just moving on is the only option
  6. Happiness is a choice – The Dali Lama wrote a whole book on it
  7. Laughter is a great healer. A funny movie can make my day
  8. Exercise for me is a must
  9. Time may not heal all wounds but it took time and patience for me to heal

I hope that if you are reading this blog you will direct those who have suffered the loss of a child to and visit us at where we cover all types of loss. Also it is not too late to join us in Orlando, Florida.

God Bless, Dr. Gloria

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