We don’t want to talk about grief because we think it exposes us in a way that makes us seem weak. But in fact, to grieve openly and with grace requires emotional bravery. It is a type of bravery we don’t explore because it’s dark, it’s sad, and it’s ugly.
Perhaps Louis C.K. describes it best in an excerpt from Conan O’Brien, in which he discusses why he hates cell phones:
“Underneath everything in your life, there's that thing, that empty - forever empty... It's the knowledge that it's all for nothing and you're alone. It's down there. And sometimes when things clear away, you're not watching it. You're in your car and you start going, 'Oh, no, here it comes - that I'm alone.' It starts to visit on you - You know, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it.”
We want the pretty pictures only: The ones where everyone is smiling and happy. That’s ok and completely understandable. But how do we showcase our grief in a way that helps heal others, and doesn’t deter us from our raw feelings?
Without grief there is no growth.
Without pain and suffering we aren’t challenged to reach within the depths of our soul and find a way out. Instead we remain at the surface and bury ourselves in our phones, work, family obligations, mundane tasks, and inane conversations about the weather.
This is certainly a useful coping mechanism, but it’s only that. If we don’t respect our grief, or hold a space for it, eventually it comes out sideways and in strange ways.
Watching a child grieve gives us insight into how to do it well. One moment they are laughing, in the next moment they are a pile of tears; and then, again, without explanation they are giggling uncontrollably about the word poop, pee, or butt. It makes absolutely no sense.
This is how grief works.
Grief is ups and downs along with cycles of humor, seriousness, reflection, and joy: all of it. We work through it by receiving – without judgment – all of the various emotions. We ugly cry. We step away from work. We give things up. We call in reinforcements to help us through it.
Then, out of nowhere, complete clarity shows up…because we’ve shown up for our grief.
When we siphon off parts of our grief, we merely sidestep the demons that will eventually come out to play, feeding on our buried dysfunction and our disrespected emotions.
If we grieve well, the “G” word becomes our friend, an odd sort of comfort. It gives us a unique gift, and a level of understanding we may have not otherwise experienced. Our lens for seeing the world shifts ever so slightly; and then the light comes barreling in.