Most English-speaking people are familiar with the idiom good grief. If nowhere else, you may remember it as Charlie Brown’s regular lament in the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schultz. In this context, good grief is an expression of dismay, surprise or relief (according to www.dictionary.com). But perhaps there’s another way to consider good grief.
A quick browse online (yes, I am that lazy) results in quite a few responses to the query is grief good. The online experts confirm that, yes, grief is good for us, if we can only learn not to fear it and learn to live with it as it (hopefully) dims. Grief is a needed human process. If we address it instead of running away from it, we’ll come out better.
I’m not so worn down by grief that I must quiver like a heaving puddle of sadness all day, but grief, at this point, is always with me. A mailing from Hospice arrived this week, one that addresses grief. The tri-fold brochure lists common responses to grief, things like needing to tell the story about your loss over and over again, feelings of guilt or regret, weakness and lack of energy. Okay, I can buy that. But on the list also appears sensing the deceased person’s presence. In my opinion, this is not a “common response” to grief, it is simply another aspect of life. The person exists in spirit now, instead of both spirit and body. We stay connected to that spirit.
Taking my own idea as correct and moving forward, I was faced with someone else’s grief this week. I noticed some social media postings about a disaster of some sort in my home town and eventually learned that it was the death of a 43-year-old man. I didn’t know him, but I’ve known his wife, age 40, since she was a little girl. The death was drug-related, but here’s the twist: a man has been arrested in connection with this death. There’s an investigation going on now, into homicide with controlled substances.
Shocked out of my own shell of grief I thought, “How horrible!” And how sad for the wife and their three daughters. Though I didn’t expect Bruce to die when he was 70, no one expects their husband to die at 43. At 43, husbands are still immortal.
I can relate to the widow’s shock and grief. I can also relate to another aspect of her loss. Like Bruce and me, they were a husband and wife music duo. To play music well with another person (which they did), you have to let yourself to be vulnerable and responsive. Plus, some of your livelihood comes from gigs and CD sales. You rehearse together, perform together, tour together. In short, you become very, very close.
And suddenly it’s gone.
Ever since I’ve heard this awful news I’ve been wanting to give advice but I’ve resisted. Every grief is different because every life is different, every death is different and every mourner is different. We owe each other the respect of a little distance. So instead, I’m sending messages of love and support, plus contributing to a Go Fund Me campaign to cover the husband’s end of life expenses. I know first-hand that the death of a spouse has many practical items that need to be addressed, and sometimes paid for, quickly.
Something you can’t pay for quickly is grief. It comes at you at the most inconvenient times and in unexpected ways. Though grief diminishes over time (I hope), it never goes away completely.
I try to think of grief in the same way I think of forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of harmful events that have passed and can’t be changed. Forgiveness does not excuse offenses; it allows the person harmed to let go of the past and repair themselves.
My brain knows that losing Bruce, the person, cannot be changed. With the help of grief, which is a process as well as a condition, maybe one day my heart will understand that, too.
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