Thoughts on Grief

A few weeks ago, I spoke with my college roommate and learned that her mom--one of the most dynamic women I've ever met--had died of leukemia. While I was saddened by the news, what saddened me more was the pressure my friend put on herself to be "okay."

This morning, I read another friend's blog that talked about going into the holidays post-divorce. About having to give up her dog. To sort through ornaments. And again, pressure to be okay. To feel okay.

Loss is not okay. And sometimes it isn't even about death or divorce. One of my friends who had gone through all of the steps for adoption, lost the opportunity through financial crisis. Goodbye nursery. Hello grief.

It occurs to me that in our society of "okay" no one teaches us how to deal with grief. No one talks about how to navigate the emotional and physical challenges that come with loss. I'm not talking about the Kübler-Ross stages of grief--as if grief would move through a five step process in some clean and orderly manner. I'm talking about the messy stuff.

Messy grief makes you doubt the way the world works. Makes you doubt God--or at least your understanding of Him. Makes you doubt who you are and your place in the world. Makes you wonder what you could have done differently to change the end result.

And, for whatever reason, we wake in the morning and paint the shiny veneer of "okay." And maybe it is better that we do. Because if you've ever met someone who didn't do it, you know that we don't know what to do with them. The clingy people who grieve everywhere. The ones who desperately want us to grieve with them. All the time. The ones who drain the life from us.

We so don't want to be that.

And so, we don't let ourselves grieve. We bottle it. Ignore it. Evade it. Until it sneaks up on us and catches us unaware. And this dance goes on.

And somehow we find it impossible to just "be" with the "un-okay." To sit with loss and let it cut us. To let it do its work of moving us from one place to the next.

There is a passage in Ecclesiastes that is often quoted in movie-funerals. (I have yet to hear it at a real one.)

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.


The real power in the passage is in the very first line. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

Loss hurts because we were never made to bear it. It is part of this broken Earth. It is part of what happens "under heaven." No one coaches us well on grief because no one really knows how to do it. It isn't in our human skillset.

The beauty of our faith is that this isn't all there is. It doesn't end here. There really is a heaven. A way things are supposed to be. A way everything will be one day. And every time it isn't, it violates that "eternity set in the hearts of men." We know we were meant for more than this.

Until then, we have the promise that grief doesn't last forever. That "though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning."

The other promise to cling to is that we never ever grieve alone.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall