On Grief


I’ve been going to a meditation group once a week. I’ve been going for about 2 months now and I love it. I think it has kind of changed my life. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been interested in Zen and have been reading and learning about it for a couple of years. The only problem is that I hadn’t taken the time to develop a zazen practice. And that is kind of the whole point of Zen.

So anyway, one of my really wonderful new co-workers invited me to a meditation group she goes to on Wednesday nights. I am really shy about meeting new people and it, generally, takes me a long time to work up the courage to go to things like these but I just decided to throw caution to the wind and go. And I’m so glad I did. We sit for 30 minutes and then talk a little bit about an aspect of zen and it usually leads to some really interesting conversations. The people I have met there are the best. There is something really wonderful about being with like-minded people.

So. All of that to tell you about my thoughts on grief.

Grief is an interesting practice. I was talking a little bit about this last night to my fellow meditation groupies. It’s  been a weird experience. I’ve never really had to go through anything like this before. But it’s an interesting emotion to have to deal with, when you analyze it. At least for me. It’s the kind of thing that you are really forced to reckon with. You just can’t ignore it. At least I can’t. It is just so there.  All the time. Sometimes it’s buried inside and I don’t feel it so much. But other times it bubbles up to the surface and I just have to deal with it. It bubbles up at the most inopportune times it seems. It is really an inconvenience, if I was being honest with myself. Because I’m just going along with my life, everything fine, and my thoughts go to something that reminds me of Doug and there it is right there in front of me, needing to be dealt with.

This little line from Michael Rosen‘s picture book, “Going on a Bear Hunt” really distills it down:

“We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We have to go through it.”

This line has run through my head since the day after Doug died and I read some articles about grief. There is an ancient African saying that was quoted on one of these sites:

“There is no way out of the desert except through it.”

I’ve found myself in the desert.

I’ve found myself in front of this obstacle and there is no way of avoiding it. I just have to go through it.

And, boy, do I ever have to go through it.

So I deal with it by crying because that is how my body reacts. And it’s o.k. I need to cry. Crying heals. But sometimes the tears come at the most inopportune times. And it can make people feel uncomfortable because they don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t want to see me (or anyone) sad. It’s hard to see people in pain. And our society is so used to just pushing those feelings down. We are supposed to “buck up” or “pull ourselves together.” When really we need to just get these feelings out. We need to acknowledge them and feel them and experience them for what they are so we can heal.

That’s what grief has taught me. That it is ok to feel negative feelings. And in fact, it is essential to feel them. We are human beings. We feel things. We are sensitive creatures. Life is suffering. We are going to suffer, no question about it. It will happen. And when it does, feel it. experience it.