Physical death is often regarded as the ultimate grief-striking loss – the common denominator of our species. But death is hardly the most common loss we humans endure. Some of us make it all the way to middle age without experiencing the death of an intimate or seriously contemplating the inevitability of our own physical decay. Grief is not so elusive and can come in many forms.
Grief and death are inherent in all life. We humans dare to dream and we are devastated by our dreams. We awaken to innocence and we are disillusioned. We sacrifice autonomy for relationship and relationship for autonomy. We celebrate the birth or adoption of a child and we are terrified of parenthood. We love and we refuse to love, and we love again. Every change we encounter requires us to lose something, no matter how precious the gain. We’re forced to die into relationship just as we die into aloneness. Grief is everywhere because change is everywhere.
The folktale character Uncle Remus once said, “You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.” The same is true for grief. Grief is as sure as life and death. Grief cannot be eradicated. Humans have been living with it for ages. Some of us reconcile our grief more easily and completely than others. But for all of us, grief is a given – as much an aspect of a human being as blood and bones.
So, the first step in accepting the reality of grief is to accept that grief resides in the contours of our human consciousness – however latent or active it may be. No human is exempt from grief – ever. A central human task, then, is to engage with grief not as if it’s the Grim Reaper, but as the Life Force it can be – a Life Force that guides us back to hope, cherished meaning, joy, forgiveness, and relationship. Grief only becomes problematic when we are unable or unwilling to move it through our being, reconcile it, transform the sometimes-paralyzing pain of it.
I wrote the following poem as I resurfaced from the darkness of my six-year hiatus in which debilitating grief was my constant companion:
– From Doing Grief in Real Life: A Soulful Guide to Navigate Loss, Death & Change ©2022 by Shea Darian