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Thoughts on Grief

This past week has brought two significant losses in my life. On Saturday we learned that my husband’s uncle had passed away and on Thursday I learned that one of my grad school professors had passed away on Monday. My thoughts and heart have been turned to both of these good men and their families who will suffer the greatest loss as they adjust to life without their loved ones.

My husband’s uncle was older and had lived a full life with his spouse, children, and grandchildren. I will always remember him for his welcoming kindness. He and his beloved wife welcomed us into their home many times when we were young and newly married and we have visited their home over the years. Most recently they have blessed our lives by watching over our children who have been attending college near where they live. He always showed me a good example of compassion and kindness for everyone who crossed his path. I especially appreciated his example of caring for family members.

My professor was younger and passed away from the effects of lymphoma and the treatment for this disease. He left behind his wife and younger children who will continue to suffer from the loss of not having their father through their growing up years. I will always remember him for his healing hands and heart that not only taught me how to heal in my own life, but also taught me how to help others heal through therapy. So much of who I am as a therapist is tied to the things that I learned from this good man.

As I have struggled with my own loss and felt the sadness for others who are grieving, I have been thinking about what it means to grieve. I have not yet lost any immediate family members to death and I don’t know what that experience feels like. My own grief over the past few days has given me some insight to what that might mean and has increased my compassion for those who struggle with grief. I know that grief hurts, it takes your breath away and brings tears to your eyes. You feel it deep in your heart and it tugs and pulls and is just really yucky (that's what my professor would have called it). It feels like things will never be the same and you know that they won’t because where your loved one existed is now just a memory. It means that life will change and that change comes unexpected and unwanted.

And yet, life does go on and grief becomes a part of living. Many years ago I watched the film “Shadowlands” which portrays the story of C.S. Lewis and his journey of marriage and the loss of his wife to cancer. I remember a line from the film that went something like this, “the joy then is part of the pain now.” I appreciate that thought that the pain that we feel at loss is about the love and joy that we felt in that relationship. We don’t get to have one without the other and we wouldn’t want to give up the joy just to avoid the pain later. It would be great if somehow we were immune to that pain, but we are not and it is part of the risk of loving someone deeply.

I won’t pretend that I know that much about grief or how to live with the pain of grief. But, I will say that the past few days of my own grieving have left me to reflect on the importance of relationships in my life. Something about grieving the loss of someone special makes you want to be more gentle and loving with those that you love. So, for today I will be a little more kind, a little gentler, and hug my loved ones so I will have that joy to hold onto someday when our lives separate from one another for a time.