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Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Most Important Thing to Understand About Grief

OKAY, I admit it.  I’m a student of grief.  And I’ll never have anything like a comprehensive knowledge of it.  Still, I’m hungry for new insight.  I got fresh insight in a recent conversation from a bereaved father.
He said to me, “Steve, it’s impossible to turn a ninety-degree corner in your life.  That’s why grief is so hard.”  The crux of what he was saying was this.  The most massive change happens in your life, and it happens instantly, and there is no time to recover.  Suddenly something undeniably sorrowful has happened, something that cannot ever be undone — it’s final — and it happens at a rate of now!  What we might find easier to cope with in transition, over say five years, comes instantly; when change comes in an instant, as all losses do, we’re bound to experience grief.
They say that time heals all wounds.  And time ultimately does.  We all ultimately die.  But we all tend to adjust to our losses over time — give or take.
This is why grief is just so difficult.  It’s why there’s an ebb and flow in the daily, even hourly, journey for the bereaved person.  There is no moment for a person undergoing grief where they’re able to confidently say they’ll remain in emotional control, let alone are they able to plan for joy.  There is no moment when they can put away thought of their loss, and there is no moment when they can escape the cost of their grief, even if they could forget about their loss.
The grieving person has been asked an impossible question, and their answer will always fall short.  Little wonder there is the boiling over of emotions, and it’s no small wonder that they’re able to hold themselves in public.
It’s good to understand that loss takes us on a hairpin bend where we have no time to respond, when we would need months, if not years.
Nobody prospers when they’re faced with instant irredeemable foundational change.  Such change comes as loss, and such change in loss induces great and calamitous grief.
We need to have great respect of any person whose life has demanded of them grief for the loss they’ve suffered.  We ought to greatly revere such people, but not to the point of avoiding them.
The most important thing to remember about grief is how important other people are to the one grieving.  It’s bad enough that life has changed so drastically; it’s fundamentally worse when people withdraw from those who are grieving.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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