G – Grief

This is a short excerpt from Susan E. Schwartz and my recently released book ‘Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry’. Susan E Schwartz is SES, I am SS and my writings are italicised. Page numbers are given. This is from the chapter ‘Grief’.

SES: Psychologically we are made to survive grief, even the most searing; and find some meaning, some purpose for proceeding on. Grief can unite us with our deepest self and introduce to us to those aspects we did not know. Grief reduces us and makes us new at the same time as we shed an old identity and slowly put on a new garment of being. The profound nature of grief is how much it can change us. Paradoxically, perhaps this is how gratitude is formulated. pg 57.

SS: A friend of mine whose husband died after a long illness a few years ago, wrote to me that she felt she was slowly coming out of the shadows of the grief that she had felt for so long. No longer was she in the shadow of wife and caretaker and was now in the difficult process of finding herself, who she truly is.  She had to forge a new identity and face the loneliness of that. She wrote about an earlier trip to the interior of her country. She wrote about the endless landscape  and the few nights spent under the stars and felt the boundlessness of it all, and wondered whether there was a similar boundlessness within her. pg 59.

‘She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts’.

George Eliot

28 Comments on AtoZ Blog Challenge G Grief

  1. I was prepared for the loss of both of my parents as there was enough lead-up time for me to prepare for the inevitable passing. Though I now think of both of them nearly every day, it is not with grief, but remembrance and a wistful longing that I wish they could have seen whatever things had come after their passing.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    • Thanks Arlee – yes I too often times remember my parents with love and affection and have conversations in my head with them even though they are long gone.

  2. What a lovely post. Grief, to me, has always felt broken, and, when healing from it, one usually comes out stronger. But maybe it’s not the breaking of a person at all, rather peeling back the layers to the core of oneself, then rebuilding, and perhaps reinventing, from there.

    • Thanks you Sara – yes, I also think one has to re-build and re-invent, to get back to the core, somehow stronger – see my response to Genevive below where I quoted ‘ Only a broken heart is whole’. Maybe some of us have to re-build, some have to re-invent ..

  3. grieving is a process and it varies from person to person. I have seen so many people departing as a child, I saw my elder sister die and did not know how to grieve, I was almost frightened seeing her dead, later another cousin sister only 7 years old died and that made me sad and frightened too. Later on I have seen my grand mothers dying at ripe old age and it was a peaceful death. Then my parents and I suffered coz I did not want them to leave me… felt sad and so many questions and changes happen within self, and then when my son died it was too much to handle and I lost my balance only to gain back after a year and gradually my grief turned into gratitude. Last month a colleague of mine died of cancer after a lot of struggle…. it did pain me, but at the same time it also changed my perspective…. for I saw death as a part of the healing process..

    • Such graceful words Genevive. It takes much inner work and experience to see life and death as part of the continuum .. and little David, the dearest soul. Death, a pain in the heart which takes a long time to settle somewhat. I’m reminded of some words I read recently, ”Only a broken heart is whole’ paradoxical it may seem. Thank you for coming by.

  4. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Susan. And this terrific quote that marks a transition in the grief process: “She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts’. `George Eliot
    I like thinking of grief as something that reduces us. It brings us back to the symbolism of cooking, thickening, getting rid of what isn’t needed to bring out the essence. All the excess moisture evaporated in the boiling or in the tears.
    Sending love to you on this funeral day of your friend. A butterfly garden is a perfect place for a memorial service. And still, we have to deal with the raw grief of no longer having that embodied person in our life.

    • Thank you Elaine – the cooking steaming reducing thickening dissolving are apt processes for the grieving one. Even in the adding there may be a reduction of all that was. A graphic image.

      It was Susan Schwartz’s friend laid to rest and the memorial held in a butterfly garden.

      I am hoping to review your beautiful book ‘Leaning into Love’ this coming week. It helped me so much on my good friend Lynda’s recent death, 3 weeks ago today. I used the highlighting function on my kindle so often. I know I’ll probably read it again. My Australian friend was here recently-I asked her if she had read it, my gift to her a few years ago. She is going to figure out how to use her kindle. Have a lovely week. I remember your son and partner are coming soon.

  5. I liked the perspective you shared, Susan. While each one handles grief differently, but it changes us deeply, not only emotionally but mentally and spiritually too.

  6. Hi Susan – grief is a strange phenomenon and one that can change with time … and it can happen over the time someone is dying as with my mother over 5+ years … it does mean at the end – the shock is not such a devastating affair. She is still with me – yet not here. I’ve learnt a lot in recent years …

    Sudden death – as with my father – is a real shock and takes adjustment … grief can take many forms too … grief of a reaction to something …

    These are such great posts – letting us search inside ourselves … even as the aging continues on … cheers Hilary


    • Thanks Hilary for coming by and for your thoughtful comments. I too sometimes feel the presence of my long dead parents, even if only in thought, though sometimes they appear in my dreams. You’re right, we keep on adjusting, even adapting, as we continue our lives, hopefully to find the core of who we are ..

  7. Intriguing picture. I’ve painted similar figures and seen them in my mind as I’ve been getting the message: I’m supposed to be painting angels. There is tension when go too long without painting an angel. My mother collected angels figurines for many years before she died and has left me quite a collection. Inspiration!

  8. Grief is quite real when it strikes. I grieved for over a year when my father died unexpectedly. I felt broken in two but slowly healed with tears, and also through a course on death and dying, which was a prelude to becoming a hospice volunteer. I never volunteered (it was too soon) but by taking action and sharing my grief with strangers I found peace inside.

    “Female Scientists Before Our Time”

    • Thanks Sharon for coming by. Grief shared is helpful as opposed to keeping it bottled up and it is good that you found this.

  9. I have been in and out of grief from the death of my brother and friend 24 years ago, my divorce, family issues, and now my husband’s illness. As I age I wonder how much more I can take, yet at the same time I have become stronger as I healed. We do learn from these challenges. I think that is an important aspect of life…living and growing.

    • Thank you Gwynn for sharing your life and death changing experiences. I don’t know how we find the inner strength to keep on, irrespective. Your comment makes me think of Susan’s comment below of her friend whose funeral was today – and the butterfly memorial. From a pupa, to a caterpillar, to emerging as a beautiful butterfly – and leaving something of value behind. Like your brother –

  10. Grief is very subjective in the sense that everybody grieves in a different way.
    Some people don’t show physical signs of grieving and can be regarded as cold/unfeeling…OR as being very strong…it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

    • Perhaps being the witness of the way others survive grief could be from our perspective Michelle. We can never fathom the others’ grief until we have personally experienced it, is my perspective. Thank you for coming by.

  11. I often don’t think man’s natural instinct is ‘happiness’ so much as ‘survival’, which must include grief. Still, there are a few grief-filled events I don’t know that I’d survive.

    • I often wonder about this pursuit of happiness Jacqui – it’s a human construct and doesn’t sit well with me (I know it’s written in your constitution). I also wonder how events that are so terrible eg wars and there are so many unfair victims of them can be survived, even if one still lives ..

      • Susan, I’ve often wondered the same thing about happiness. I like being happy but it’s the result of me surviving, not my raison d’être. Somehow that idea is often lost on my fellow Americans.

        • Is happiness a right? Who defines happiness? I agree Ally Bean – it’s lost on most of us I guess. Although, just to be otherwise when my hair is looking good, I feel a little bit happy! 🙂 Or when I come by interesting comments, or when I manage not to put my hand in the cookie jar; and I’d be soooo happy if the pres of this country gets booted out –

  12. I attend a funeral today for a lovely vibrant gracious woman whose memorial is a butterfly garden…

    • All loving thoughts for this woman Susan and for you and others as you grieve. The butterfly reminds me of the transitoriness of everything ..

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