IN MEMORIAN: Is Grief Necessarily Sad?

Look Again…

In the wake of my fathers’ death, I wanted to post on this newer blog the piece I had written about grief not necessarily meaning sadness. Maybe it is just the experience of unfettered connection.


You may have known that my mom passed away on Christmas Eve, so this year brings the first of each holiday I am spending without her physical presence (but definitely not without her).

On Mothers’ Day, I received the above quote from a very dear friend of mine (who I’ve known since kindergarten), that made me want to share how I’ve been able to experience what we call ‘grief’ in a very different way.  Here is the quote:

“Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith….It is the price of love.” Author unknown

It has been so helpful to me (and others I’ve told) to think of this thing we call grief not so much in terms of sorrow or even as paying a price. Instead, it has helped to re-image it as our hearts being cracked so wide open with the experience of our love for the person; so much love uninhibited by the stories that used to separate us in life, that it is unfamiliar to us.

It almost hurts, because the energy is so pure and so powerful.  Sometimes it stretches our hearts to the point where it overflows — in the form of liquid love (spontaneous tears). Thinking of teras as love changes everything, since we can let them come without feeling sorry for ourselves or like something bad is happening.

I see it with my dad, who I never saw cry before in my life and now how he just lets it come whenever it does–lots in the beginning when mom died and still sometimes when her name comes up in conversation.  It is very sweet.  He told me yesterday that it comes about once a day, and inspired me to send this out to the new folks on my list.I don’t know whether it is called grief but I do know it really doesn’t feel like sadness or regret or even loss.

Whatever we call it, when it happens to me, this new way of seeing it feels less like a price and more like a privilege –kind of like getting a visit from the person or being hit by a gentle bolt of pure love.Given this new way of thinking of grief, now when I think I’m missing someone (my mom, Jamie at college, my dad after being with him so much while he was sick, etc.) I can at first start to feel sad.

But then I notice that without the mind-made concept that I need something from them, I can experience it as just a tugging on my heartstrings that feels SO in touch with the essence of that person.I get to fully enjoy my love for them whether they are here or not, so much more than if I think of it as sadness.  The ‘sad’ definition of grief takes me away from that love for them (i.e. I start to feel sorry for myself and then it’s all about me).

This other way, I actually feel “fed” by the experience.  It’s very cool–you can feel so close to them and it’s not sad!  In some ways we are programmed by society to believe we need to stay sad as a symbol of the degree of our love for them, but it’s not necessarily so.
If you try out this way of thinking, also be sure to ask yourself what you ARE needing and find ways to give it to yourself — sometimes by letting another fill that need (your mom or other lost loved one would want you to).
We are the ones who most often abandon our dear selves, and it is very sweet to find out that we’re the perfect mommy-hero (or big brother, best friend, etc.) that this littlest part of us has been waiting for all along!  Xox

What I’m talking about is also very different also from the kind of sadness that is like a tantrum (not wanting things to be what they are) or regret (wishing you had behaved differently toward them).It is critically important to acknowledge that hurting part of ourselves, too, and inquire about our mind’s assertion that reality should be different–or would have been better some others way.

When you know how to question these thoughts (let me know if you want help) thins can shift instantly.  It truly all can be experienced as love when you start to notice; when all along we were brought up to think it was sadness.

This was my little Memorial Day gift (that I wanted to send to new folks on my list); it’s for anyone others who has lost a loved one.  To help us know that once we clear up the thoughts that separate us, our loved ones are always with us–in ways that are different from  and yet can be as good as or even better than the past (i.e. each day whether they are here in the flesh or not!).  Just sharing with other sons and daughters and mothers and siblings and friends and lovers what has helped me stay super connected and even very happy in the face of change and loss.