Welcome All Who are Grieving

GoodGrief.org was formed to open the dialogue around issues of grief and loss in such a way that honors loss in the cycle of life. The Hindu god Shiva dances the cosmic dance of creation and destruction teaching us that each act of destruction calls for an act of creation. We take that into our grief to teach us that we heal our loss through acts of creation.

Grieving takes time. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to feel the pain, to feel the fear, to feel the anxiety and, ultimately, to live the questions until the answers begin to reveal themselves to us. The great German poet Rainer Marie Rilke says it for us: Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything.

Grieving takes us to the very heart of life itself. Grieving takes us to love and to loss. We only grieve for that which we have loved and, the nature of life being transitory, love and loss are intimately connected. Not only are we all going to die but every moment is changing and as it changes, it brings loss.

All of us experience some level of loss in our everyday lives, from apparently minor situations to major loss such as the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, or a dream.

Healing our grief is a journey, not a destination. The journey into our healing asks us to weave our losses into the fabric of our lives. To do that, we need tools. We are here to help provide you with the tools for the healing journey.

Grief Help : Q&A

When there is some catastrophic loss, it seems that life will never be good again. Is this true?
Grief asks us to make room for loss in our lives and in our hearts. Before this loss, we would have thought that great loss and great joy would be mutually exclusive. Not so. We are in an altered state when we experience profound loss be it from the death of a loved one or the loss of some cherished part of ourselves. An altered state can be an opening onto a new way of being in the world where loss and joy can live together.

How can I get to the place where joy and loss live together? How can I get past this pain?
First, we don't get past the pain. We must go through it. We can't go around it or over it or under it either. The path to healing through loss, which means the path to wholeness, requires that we incorporate our pain. To incorporate means to literally take the pain into our body (corps). We get to that place where joy and grief can live together by becoming whole. The process of healing, whether from a physical illness or from a catastrophic life disturbance is a transformational journey. We are changed in the process. The goal is not to be the "way we were" once again, the goal is to be more than we were before, to include more of life. Ultimately the goal is to include loss in our love and trust of life.

How can I stop thinking these thoughts that frighten and depress me?
There is a chassidic story I would like to share here: A disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch complained that he could not pray with pure devotion because of improper thoughts that were intruding during his prayer. The Maggid referred him to Rabbi Wolf of Zhitomir for help with this. On arriving in Zhitomir, the man sought out Rabbi Wolf's house and knocked on the door, but there was not answer. After repeatedly knocking on the front door, rear door, and shutters, the man concluded that Rabbi Wolf was not at home. He sat in the doorway to wait for him and fell asleep.

Hours later, Rabbi Wolf opened the door and invited him into the house. "Have you learned anything yet, young man?" Rabbi Wolf asked. The man shook his head in bewilderment. "You knocked incessantly on my doors and shutters seeking entrance. But since I am master of my house, I chose to refuse you entrance. You can be master of your mind. If you are determined to keep some thoughts out of your mind, you can do so. You can refuse them entrance, regardless of how much they try to intrude."

The truth is that we can be in charge of our thoughts and our imagination once we decide that we want to be! The first step in taking responsibility for our obsessive thoughts is acknowledging the parts of us that are fascinated by and seduced by our pain, terror and shame. The challenge here is to make wellness choices in our thinking as opposed to worseness choices. The question to ask is: Where do I want to be (in my mind) and will this thinking get me there?

I feel numb. Is this normal?
A friend of mine, Doris Ober, edited a book entitled "Sometimes the Heart Goes Numb." This is a book about care-takers of Aids patients. Sometimes, when we are faced with overwhelming physical and emotional demands, we do go "numb." And sometimes, going numb is a healthy defensive mechanism that will allow us to go on. Vigilance, honesty and clarity are called for, however, in the face of numbing. We don't want to fall into the seduction of "not feeling." Healing is always a delicate interplay of forces much like the homeostasis within the body's chemistry: a little bit of bacteria is a good thing; too much causes infection. The answer: pay attention to your own inner voice and listen to the feedback of trusted friends.

How do I stop crying?
The ability to shed tears, to weep, seems to be a uniquely human response to pain. It is cleansing and healing. It does have a shadow side and the shadow side of tears is that we bring to each moment the unshed tears of past experiences.

In December of 1981, I was diagnosed with a malignancy. In February of 1982, I underwent surgery and elected not to have radiation or chemotherapy though both were recommended. By April, I was not doing well. A colleague of mine who was a Sikh, invited me to undertake a 42 day healing retreat. I accepted. Somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd week, after a powerful prayer service, I found myself staying behind in the chapel. Alone, I began to weep. I allowed myself to "collapse" into my tears and my fear.

I had not felt safe enough to do this in the preceding months because always there was a family member, friend or professional waiting for me to stop. This time there was no one. I wept and wept and wept. I wept past my own fear at dying and leaving my young son. I wept past my hurts and losses. I wept past my tribal holocausts and inquisitions. By the time I stopped weeping, I was weeping for my ancient brothers and sisters. I had wept to the end of my tears!

That was 1982. What I have discovered in the ensuing years is that when I cry, I am crying in the present and the present moment has its own rhythm. Cry. Cry to the end of your tears. Trust that you will emerge on the other side into the honest present.

I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and this will never have happened. Am I in denial?
Situations of great stress precipitate us out of "ordinary" reality into non-ordinary or dream-like states of consciousness. This too is a reactive way the psyche has of dealing with feelings that in our ordinary states could not be "borne" so we find a place, in our minds, that is bearable: I am going to wake-up and none of this will be true. Slowly, reality seeps in and we do come to realize that we are awake. But we have taken time into our own hands by slowing it down ever so slightly. This is different than denial which is much more rigid, longer lasting and needing professional intervention.

Why do I want to sleep all the time?
"Sleep knits the ravel'd sleeve of care," according to Shakespeare. A great deal of healing takes place in the dreams, remembered or not, that occur during sleep. Emotional upheavals are exhausting and take vast amounts of energy that need to be restored. There is a line again that we must guard against, a line into depressive sleep. Although I feel that grieving, like birthing, is not a medical condition requiring treatment as much as it is a life event needing "tribal" support, there are situations that ask for more than friends, family, or spiritual advisors can offer. We need to be sensitive to the moment, not afraid to ask for help and at the same time not be too quick to give our sacred journey into the hands of the medical "experts."

I can't stand being around my family and friends. What's happening?
Life is changing in the face of this loss. Who and what you were is perhaps no longer who and what you will be. Suddenly, relationships that we didn't question are now confusing. Friendships that were so strong can't hold up to the force of this destruction. When we say "we have lost _______(fill in the blank)," what we are saying is that "we are lost!" Our ground of being is shifting and, as in an earthquake, we must wait out the aftershocks before putting ourselves back together.

My mind keeps wandering. Am I losing my mind?
Not likely. The mind, in such pain and turmoil, is seeking comfort and meaning. In Viktor Frankl's landmark book, "Mans Search for Meaning," he tells us that in the worst circumstances humans face, the ones who survive are those who can find meaning in their suffering. The wandering mind is wandering in search of meaning