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7 Things Grief Teaches You

I know that when you are grieving that you likely you aren’t wanting to see any worth in the experience, and I am not a big fan of hastily turning lemons into lemonade (I prefer turning the lemons into something more satisfying, like lemon cake or something that takes time, effort and a little more than just adding sugar, sunshine and early positivity to the condition). That said, even though it doesn’t make the grief worth it( nothing does) grief shows you some things that you might not learn otherwise. Before we evaluate grief’s inadvertent teachings, let me remind you that not all of the educations are easy to learn--- yet they are still appreciated and worth learning, unlike maybe algebra or geometry. Okay, let’s review grief’s unintentional message.

1. Small stuff matters

When you have lost a loved one, a relationship or a dream, it really makes the stuff that seems so significant not seem as significant; grief and loss teaches you a viewpoint in a way that an art course never could. All of a sudden you really get that it is all about the small moments, the unpretentious pleasures and that as much as we are all seeking the big-ticket moments of life, it is the small stuff that really matters. I miss, more than I can tell you, the joys of playing bocce with my grandfather. Recalling how much I treasure that time with him makes me more likely to treasure those kinds of moments with people in my here and now.

2. You find out who your friends really are

When we are in grief it can make some people around us really uncomfortable. Grief is hard and it can be really hard for those around us to see us in it, they may want us to “turn our frown upside down” or “see the bright side” when there isn’t a bright side. You may, in your grief, be surprised to find out who really and truly shows up for you, and equally as surprised who isn’t there for you. Grief often divides the men from the boys and the fair weather ones from the friends who are willing to put on figurative boots and gloves to be there with you in the rain. It is a good thing to know who your real friends really are and grief can really communicate that to you.

3. A greater awareness of how short-lived life really is

We all know that we aren’t going to live endlessly, and that, in fact, nothing lasts forever. Correct? Only, we can know it and we also don’t really know it. Loss can bring that certainty home like nothing else can. It is an significant lesson to get because life is valuable and brittle and it doesn’t last forever. Really and truly getting this lesson can get us engaged with our life and motivate us to treat it like the time-limited treasure that it is and finally to live more fully.

4. Awareness of what really matters to you

A list of things we don’t grieve ending: taxes, trips to the dentist, colonoscopies, being stuck on an escalator, and head lice. No, we grieve losses of things we like, love, brought us hope, contentment, or possible happiness (in the case of dreams). Grief means you appreciated something and I am guessing if I could offer you the possibility of ending your grief at the small cost of no longer caring about or loving the beloved love, pet, job, or dream, it is my guess you would prefer to hold onto the loved one and deal with the resultant grief than to no longer care. You may not need grief to teach you this message---you may have known this. But, no matter, grief is your subconscious way of prompting you just how much and how deeply you cared and that is an important fact.

5. Learning you can endure more than you imagined

If I told you a year ago that you were going to lose the job, this relationship, this person in your life, or whatever it is that you like, very likely you would have imagined that you would simply not have been able to handle it and might have gone as far as foreseeing that you would totally and completely fall apart, never laugh again and be totally unable to find anything good about life for now until the end of time. Nevertheless, I am guessing, you likely have laughed again, and you are still standing and working and doing things. Yes, of course, you are heartbroken, but you are, dear you, you are persisting.

6. Feelings change

I like to think of feelings as climate as opposed to natural features. Weather, to state the apparent, is continually changing and we are okay with that. We certainly don’t expect it to always be 72 degrees and sunny, that would be an ridiculous expectancy. However, with feelings we may expect that we should always be the demonstrative equal of that kind of weather---yet we don’t. And when we are in grief, very often, people envision that they will “always feel this way”. Unfortunately, grief is an volatile rollercoaster of repudiation, unhappiness, misery, embarrassment, fury, guilt, resentment, and futility. Your feelings will change and you won’t feel this way incessantly, you may not know that yet—but grief will teach you this lesson.

7. Hugs help

Cheerful platitudes and trite truths like “it’s darkest before dawn” do not help. When people drop the need to cheer up a person grieving and instead put their arms around us and say they are sorry that we are going through this---it helps. Well, of course, it doesn’t help in terms of bringing back what we have lost, but it is a well-being and a real comfort that is more healing than any well-meaning information.

I hope these thoughts and explanations of grief helped you.

Ernie R.

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