Hasty Grief?

In my years of talking and writing about grief, the most common question people want answered is “How do I get through grief quickly?”

This is a continuum of the general concept that grief is an affliction, an evil thing that must somehow be eliminated from your life as quickly as possible. The pain of early grief is very real, with the emotional pain often bringing physical pain and changes in your life that are uncomfortable. No rational human would want to stay in that pain, so the first instinct is to find the fastest way out.

The early emotional pain is an evolved process of humans. It has evolved to teach us more about the one we loved and about how and why we love. The pain and confusion reflects our lack of understanding and preparation for grief, which in a good life is truly unavoidable. Because it arrives with pain, we often can’t see past grief’s pain find to the underlying purpose of grief, which is to teach us and enrich us.

My experience with grief has taught me that what we need to find is not a way out, but rather the fastest way to resolve the pain of grief, so that we can find a comfortable way to incorporate the memories and lessons of the love we have shared into our daily lives. If we can make sense of and soothe the pain, then we can linger in the warming afterglow of that love we have shared for a lifetime.

Back to my basic simple distillation of grief:

  • We grieve because we love
  • No love, no grief. Deep love, deep and complex grief.
  • When we love someone, whether we speak the words of not, we understand and accept that one of us will die before the other.
  • The person died, the love we shared with them doesn’t die.
  • Grief is the final responsibility for having loved someone.
  • Our grief is our story of the value of a life changing love, now carried and expressed by one of the two who have loved.

This distillation of grief puts grief into a perspective of being a fortunate honorable endeavor, rather than being an affliction or injury. Fortunate, because you are the lucky one who survives to remember and tell the story.

Where do you begin?

I suggest that you start by writing a private eulogy in your journal (more here), because that process quickly isolates what you initially see as the main value and impacts of the life you have shared love with. I dare say that this eulogy will expand and deepen with time, so feel free to update or re-write it as you slowly become more aware of the depth and breadth of the influence of that love shared.

I have written many more eulogies than I have delivered. I often write a quick one before a funeral or memorial gathering because it helps me organize and focus on the true value of that life and makes conversations at those events less awkward and more comfortable.

I have delivered eulogies for the major deaths in my life, my brother’s suicide at age 43, the untimely death of a best friend and key employee, and for our son’s death at age 20 in a firefighter training accident.

Whether you deliver it or not, the process of eulogy organizes your early path through grief. It is important to understand that you can use the concept of eulogy at any point in your grief, even years later, and especially when you are finding grief confusing or distracting.

People who grieve well have learned to focus on what’s important, on what they want to remember about this person, about the lessons from this person’s life that others will find valuable.

What is this person love about their life? What did the love doing that you shared with them? What did they teach you? What will you never forget?

We can’t undo death. We are at our best when we don’t allow death to undo the love that we have shared, or the life that we have, and by doing that we deny death the ability to change our lives in negative ways.

But, we can’t honor a life after a death if we run too quickly through grief without fully understanding how this life we shared love with has enriched us and making that enrichment a part of every day we have in the rest of our life.

You will find less pain if you seek the true purpose of grief as a comfortable and permanent enrichment of your life and lessons for the lives of those around you. More good memories, good teachings and less or no pain is a way to define the best possible grief.

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