Outrageous Fortune

Seeing Grief From a Different Perspective

Proverbial wisdom says that all good things must come to an end. In the same breath, it declares that all good things come to those who wait. Such are the contradictions of grief. Grief is a private waiting room where you sit brooding for such attendants as love, joy, hope, and meaning to return. So, the suffering of grief is every bit as much about the goodness of life as it is about heartbreak. Sorrow is the sister of delight, and grief is their mother. 

Why, then, does grief get such a bad rap in our culture? Most of us think of grief in the same way we imagine the Grim Reaper – as a reality we hope to hide from as long and often as we possibly can. But how would your life be different if you learned to regard grief as no less a gift than happiness? How would our children and grandchildren be different if families learned to embody the lessons grief teaches? 

Perhaps it’s a ridiculous proposition. Grief hurts. Grief threatens to break our hearts and minds into a million shard-like pieces. Grief comes when loved ones die or disappear or when they leave, lie to, or betray us. Grief comes with violence, storm, flood, or a system of injustice. It comes with loneliness, injury, illness, or isolation. Grief comes when life changes are too much for a heart, body, psyche, or soul to bear.

Yet, grief may also come when one gives birth or adopts a child, commits to a life-long partnership, gets a new job, or moves to a new home. Grief comes when one grows to a new age or stage of development and recognizes that illusions we once depended upon (the irreversibility of death or the heroic invincibility of a guardian) no longer serve us. It comes in subtle, elusive ways when our favorite season or time of day passes and we must wait another year or another day to recapture the joy and meaning we find in it. Grief is the courier of change.

We humans often confuse grief with the sadness we feel over something we lose, but grief is something more and different. To experience grief, what we lose must be something dear to us. Grief keeps us abreast of that which we love, that in which we find our greatest happiness. 

Shakespeare, in the tragedy of Hamlet, deems grief as a fortune – an “outrageous fortune,” to be sure, but a fortune, all the same. Here’s the rub with the outrageous fortune of grief: You can squander it. You can use it to wield power over others. You can even hold onto it tight as a starving miser. But you can also learn to use grief as a resource to make your life, family, and world a more loving and hopeful place to reside. Your suffering is an able torchbearer. It can lead you to the center of meaning, hope, joy, love, forgiveness, and yes, to the very center of healing – where you can see for yourself that grief is not the Grim Reaper.

~ From Doing Grief in Real Life: A Soulful Guide to Navigate Loss, Death & Change ©2022 by 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). Connect@DoingGrief.com