Understanding Grief

Grief is a sneaky little f*cker. It can disguise itself as anxiety, mania, lethargy, cynicism, and rage. You can try to get rid of it through drinking, drugging, comfort food, sex, homicide, and suicide. And yet if you want to live a whole life, you must learn to accept grief as a vital part of the human condition that will never fully go away. Loss - loss of love, loss of friendship, loss of stuff, loss of innocence - is part of the game. All things go, and sometimes they go in violent and sudden ways. It is perfectly natural to feel this kind of messy, honorable emotional pain.

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"The Weeping Buddha" 

Would you rather cry or live a lie? 

Tears are not to be avoided. For a heart that grieves is a heart that’s pure. Avoiding grief can be far more dangerous than allowing it to wash over you. It is safer to be humbled by sadness, to be open to the possibility that grief can teach you something you don't know yet, rather than indulge in its shallower, self-destructive expressions to escape it.

To grieve, you must fully acknowledge the deep, dark well of sorrow that exists inside each of us. Though long outbursts of weeping, short spells of tear drops, we endure the bittersweet pain of seeing life clearly. And if we follow grief far enough, we find that it inevitably mellows into acceptance. In the process, we are transformed.

Grief is not mental illness. But because contemporary society is ill-equipped to respond to it with solidarity and compassion, people treat it as such. We are told from a young age that our cries are obnoxious and inappropriate. Some of us are beaten as a way to be silenced. And so we build a dam to keep our grief from fully flowing. We stuff it down. If we show it to others, they are afraid it will knock them over. We are rejected for our grief, when grief is meant to be witnessed. Grief belongs to the community, so its members don't slip through the cracks. Everyone's grief is big. So big that we learn to self-preserve and shut down and in the process, we fail to be fully human. We live our lives isolated, wearing blinders to avoid facing what's real. We never wash away the pain festering and hardening inside us. We allow atrocities to take place in front us and say nothing. We create toxic lives for ourselves. We displace our grief onto others and it multiplies in the world.

It is thought by some humanist psychologists that repressed grief (that ultimately stems from unaddressed abuse and neglect) is what creates the symptoms of mental illness. So to heal from the past, you have to own your own anguish. This may be the only way to break dysfunctional behavior patterns that cause us to hurt ourselves and others. That's why people say healing is feeling. 

The sun rises in the morning and it falls in the evening. Life does not stop despite your passing misery. If you were to pan out your perspective to see Earth from outer space, you would witness millions of people on the planet weeping. It's beautiful. It's fine. It makes perfect sense considering what goes on around us. 

In time you'll realize it's possible to acknowledge the state of your inner world while taking care of your outer life, so what's in the darkness of the psyche can be brought to the light to disappear in time. 

Give yourself both the privacy and support system to mourn. 

Give yourself the internal presence you need to face the effects of what's happened to you and what you've done, so you can forgive and become whole. Don't think of grief in terms of good or bad. Don't try to save someone from their grief. Don't take on the grief of others. Let everyone feel what they need to. 

For grief is daring. Grief cultivates strength. Grief sensitizes our perception to help us know what to protect ourselves and others from. It empowers us to claim what we will never do again. It will not kill you. It will restore you. You will suffer longer if you stay attached to its masks. Grief and joy reside in the core of life. One makes room for the other. Grief evolves us into the type of people who can evolve the world. Denial can only last so long before we awaken to life as change. 

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love." - Irving Washington


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