On Grief

“Death ends a life but not a relationship”. So speaks the main character in Robert Anderson’s play I Never Sang for My Father. When we lose someone, they live on in our memories. Sometimes, too, they live on because we haven’t resolved something or because some things were left unspoken.

I don’t think there is a correct way to grieve. Rather we get into trouble when we think there is a correct way to grieve and we’re not doing it. I recall a wonderful lady who lost her husband of over 50 years. She told me that helpful members of her church had given her books on grieving and that she’d read them all, the result being that she was confused. What did I do? I gave her another book to read! I gave her A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. The book consists of Lewis’ struggle for the first year after he lost his wife. After the first year of grieving ends, the story just stops. No happy ending. No end to the grief. Clearly, Lewis ends his book with the undercurrent that his grief will go on. (By the way, the woman found the book very helpful).

Grieving can be downright annoying. At times, it is unexpected, evoked by strains of music, a smell, or some other wisp of a memory. Cigar smoke, for example, always evokes my Uncle Gaddy, whom I loved and miss to this day.

The best that we can do is face our grief and allow the emotion, comforting ourselves with the reminder that grief is testament to caring, a pricetag if you will for loving.

I presented the woman mentioned above with the following scenario: if you could avoid this pain by going back in time and undo the relationship or simply not care as much, would you do it? Without hesitation, she answered “No!”

Grief teaches lessons. There is one loved one who crossed over, leaving me with uncertainty that I had told her I loved her. I’ve made sure to never let that happen again.

“Death ends a life but not a relationship”. Indeed, my relationships with my parents, with the sisters I never met, with friends and loved ones continue to evolve and in some cases to heal. If grief is a component of those relationships, then I embrace it.

Reflections: 1. What relationships do you have where grieving is a part of them? Is there anything about your grief that involves something unspoken?

Further reading and viewing:  There is a movie version of I Never Sang for My Father with Gene Hackman that is worth seeing. Lewis’ A Grief Observed is also recommended.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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4 Responses to On Grief

  1. Billie says:

    Thank you, Rich…

  2. Rose says:

    I still grieve over the loss of my husband, Greg. It’s been 12 years now and I still miss him. It’s hard to believe I will never taste those wonderful peanut butter cookies he used to make, or that wonderful dutch apple pie. Those Thanksgiving dinners he made are still missed by us all! Our son, Michael, seems to miss him more as the years go by. Holidays are still the hardest. I took my wedding ring off five years after Greg died because I wasn’t married anymore. Every time I looked at my ring, I thought of Greg. It was just too hard, too much grief. I thought I had to take it off in order to “move on”. Move on to what? Scripture does say, somewhere, I just can’t remember where – leave your grief at the grave. I have and then I take it back again. Still miss my mother and grandmother and they died so many years ago. The memories are great, though, and they do keep me warm at night. I believe that one day we will meet again.

  3. Susan Bass says:

    What strikes me about the theme running thru all of these posts is how much Dr. Patterson loves his work. For some people, work is a source of deep satisfaction and it is a part of love. The physician who delivered my child also exhibited this quality. Although he is a multi-millionaire, a pilot, and a nationally recognized infertility specialist, as he walked into the delivery room, he looked as though he would rather be delivering a baby than doing anything else in the world. Yes, I agree grief is a price we pay for loving. And most of us learn at some point that love is stronger than death. Federal Investigators were sent from Texas to find me in another state because they thought I might have information about a case. They thought this based on love letters they found from me. But the man to whom they were written had been dead for many years. Still they were convinced I would cooperate based on my love for a man long dead. At some level, most of us know that love is stronger than death.

  4. Sonia says:

    Unspoken grieving…I would have to say I have grieve for my unborn child… for the sometimes sad childhood I had…for the wife I should have been… for the parent I should have been…those unspoken words I love you that went untold during the last days of someone life and I never called because I believed that they already knew this…when will my grieving end…I would say never because as long as there still beloved children, siblings, and friends I will grieve each and every time…this statement I will grieve each and every time doesn’t mean that every day I am in mourning it’s just that as I become older and they become older, when bad health and sickness becomes an issue I will grieve… is there a time limit as to when I will stop grieving… I would guess the day someone grieves for me…

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