Grief is Complicated

I’m saddened by the way we treat death and grief in our culture. We’re so production oriented that we’ve established generations worth of traditions surrounding how we handle every monumental stage of life: births, birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths.

Example: people freak out if a woman breastfeeds her baby for more than 6-9 months because it’s now a cultural norm to stop by that time. But the sad truth is that babies don’t actually need to stop breastfeeding that early. BUT it’s more convenient for the mother to stop hassling with it and it generates more profit for baby food companies for moms to stop early, so it became encouraged for decades until it became accepted as the norm.

Same with death and grieving. In other cultures, people verbally mourn and wail. They dress in sackcloth and wear dust on their heads to express their deep sorrow. Loss is something we cannot quantify. Grief is an experience that we dare not sweep under the rug because it’s inconvenient to our profit-bearing lives. Contrary to popular belief, work does NOT get you through grief. It merely supresses grief. Any emotions suppressed have consequences. It’s literally like refusing to release pressure that builds on the inside. Without an outlet, we risk our bodies and minds when we bury and ignore our feelings.

Every month now, I hear a news story about how some negative emotion or suppressed issue leads to cancer, migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart strain, and so on. It’s basic logic, but we seem to fight against acknowledging simple truths. The simple truth is this: we as people are designed to need to process emotions in order to maintain health and happiness. Suppressed feelings are pressures and strains that we absorb into our bodies and minds like traumas.

But as the title says, grief is complicated. It’s not something you can process in just one day at a memorial service. It’s not something that won’t affect your focus, your stability, your appetite, and your interest in intimate relationships.

Put in my own words, grief is the process of experiencing loss as something is ripped from my life against my will. There are many phases or emotions that accompany grief. There is injustice, sadness, denial, confusion, anger, pride, and so on. Grief feels overwhelming. It’s one of those experiences that tempts us to retreat within ourselves and hide rather than face the pain without comfort.

I know all this because A) I’m an introspective person and B) I’m grieving right now over the loss of my grandpa. I keep picturing one of my recent conversations with him and then I tell myself that this will never happen again in this life. And the concept is so overwhelming that my mind feels like it’s going to cave in and implode from the pressure of reality.

Thank God for my wife, who senses my grief and comes close to me to offer her non-verbal show of love and support. Her sincere concern is a small comfort to me during this time. One of the greatest gifts we can have is loving support. We will all grieve, but thank God when we don’t have to grieve alone.