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6 Critical Aspects of Grief Everone Should Know
By Conroy Reynolds

Grief like spirituality is an often misunderstood aspect of the human experience. Yet it is an inescapable fact of life. Being alive involves dealing with the pain of loss, whether it be the death of a loved one or some other significant loss. In this article I focus primarily on the death of a loved one.

Recently I sat down with two women in their late sixties to talk about their feelings over the loss of their husbands. It was remarkable that both women had been married for 50 years and both lost their husbands within the past year. Neither of them had met the other before. It was profoundly moving to listen to them talk about what the absence of their husbands with whom they had spent a lifetime meant to them. They both have grown children with families who are supportive and willing to include them in their families, but the loneliness these women are experiencing cannot be filled until they are able to complete that lost relationship. There are several aspects of grief that we need to keep in mind.

1. Spiritual persons also experience the pain of loss

A spiritual person is not immune to the pain caused by the experience of loss. The spiritual, physical and biological processes that occur after loss are similar in most persons. The pain of loosing someone you love is just as real for the spiritually in tune as well as for those who are not. However spirituality can de deepened and refined by the grief process.

2. Grief is a glimpse into the heart of God

Grief is the process of grappling with life and death. The finality of death goes beyond anything else we have to deal with in the present. In death we loose the ability to connect with our loved one, to laugh, to cry, to work or to help them. When we grieve, we feel more deeply than ever. All the love, tenderness and care we have for this one fills our hearts and we catch a glimpse of what it means to love as God loves.

3. Grief is temporary

Like everything else in this life grief is a temporary phenomenon. As painful as it may be, grief is not permanent in the sense that the person only dies once. The memory of the loss may remain forever etched in the brain, but the individual will not come back to die again. A person stuck in permanent grief may require additional counseling in order to complete the process.

4. Grief is highly Individualized

Every person's journey through grief is unique since it relates to one's personal experience and relationships. Everyone can agree however that the experience will be painful and involves dealing with a range of negative emotions. While some persons have taught that grief follows a particular course proceeding through a set number of stages, I have found it more accurate to say grief does involve painful emotions and difficult thoughts but in no particular order. The grieving person may experience a number of conflicting thoughts and emotions in a short space of time.

5. Grief can increase the capacity for empathy

An essential part of the process of recovery from grief and pain is to deepen one's connection with others who suffer, whatever may be the source of the pain. The experience of wrestling with such painful thoughts and feelings and finding resolution involves increasing one's capacity to confront and engage the pain.

6. Unhealthy grief blocks spiritual and emotional healing

I recall conducting a group in which one woman insisted that I not mention the name of God. Her whole body shook with rage as she declared God had taken her husband from her 7 years ago and she was angry at him since her husband was such a wonderful person. Even though her husband died 7 years before she could find no resolution, her anger at God was intense. Rage and bitterness had been allowed to sabotage the grief process.

The grief process is an inevitable part of life and it is critical for each of us to understand something of the process and thus give ourselves a greater opportunity to learn and grow with it.


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