Defining Grief on Your Own Terms

Before you know how to heal your grief, you have to get to know the grief that is yours to heal. Put simply, grief is the spontaneous suffering you experience when you are subject to a real or imagined loss of someone or something you greatly value or cherish. But what makes grief so difficult to define in explicit terms is that it comes in all shapes and sizes.

If you desire to know the ins and outs of grief, you have to be willing to observe your own. Grief can be a feeling, an emotion. It can be a physical sensation or a way of thinking. Grief can be experienced as a spiritual crisis – a nebulous gnawing at your psyche that alludes to an absence of meaning or hope or joy. It can be a raw burning in your chest or a lifting of a veil that once protected some aspect of your innocence or naïveté. Grief can come as a sense of aloneness. It can even come as a bittersweet love of what used to be.

Think about it. Right now. What is grief to you? You’re the only one who can answer the question. You’re the only one who can feel what you feel, think what you think, and be in your grief the way you are. So, ask the question often, every day if need be: What is grief to me? Think about it. Contemplate it. Write about it. Draw it or dance it, if you choose. Talk it out with a loved one. The effort will be worth it, because if you get to know your grief, you can discover your path to healing.

– Excerpt from Doing Grief in Real Life: A Soulful Guide to Navigate Loss, Death & Change ©2022 by Shea Darian (revised)

Your grief contains its own antidote.

Shea Darian

Published by Shea

Shea Darian, M.Div. is a family and grief educator, spiritual care provider, and award-winning author of Doing Grief in Real Life (Nautilus Award; IPPY Award) and Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day. Shea is the creator of the Model of Adaptive Grieving Dynamics, published in the journal Illness, Crisis & Loss, Vol. 22(3), 2014. Books on family spirituality include Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child's Spiritual Life (Foreword Book of the Year Award) and Living Passages for the Whole Family: Celebrating Rites of Passage from Birth to Adulthood (Nautilus Award; Next Generation Indie Book Awards).