Sunday, May 23, 2010


Every few days it seems to me, I hear someone talk about someone else's grief - usually in a way that assumes the grieving person isn't doing it right. I've experienced a lot of bad advice myself from people who don't really know what they're talking about. The best advice I ever got was "Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve." Everyone is different. Everyone's relationships are different. I love this quote from Melody Beattie who wrote it before she lost her son when ittook her 12 years to be able to be fully functional again:

"There's no way to prepare for deep grief, for the pain that shatters a heart and a life when a loved one leaves.
No one can coach us on it. Those who could, who knew exactly how it felt, who could describe it in detail, wouldn't do it, would not presume to encroach on this most intimate part of our relationship with a loved one. Those who casually say, "Aren't you over that yet?" don't understand.
This much I will tell you about grief: If there was ever a second, or a moment, when you suspected or knew you had been betrayed at the deepest level by someone you adored, and a splintering pain began to shred your heart, turn your world grimly unbearable to the point where you would consciously choose denial and ignorance about the betrayal rather than feel this way, that is one-millionth of what it feels like to grieve.
Grief is not an abnormal condition, nor is it something to be treated with words. It is a universe, a world, unto itself. If you are called to enter this world, there is no turning back. We are not allowed to refuse that call. Grief is like nothing else, with the possible exception of the pounding waves of the ocean. To the untrained, casual eye, each wave looks the same. It is not. No two are the same. And each one washes away the old, and washes in the new.
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, whether we believe it or not, we are being transformed. "

- The Language of Letting Go.


Paul Bennett said...

The more I consider the quote from Melody Beattie, the more puzzling it seems to me.

She is convinced that "No one can coach us on it," and that "Those ... who could describe it in detail, wouldn't do it." And yet, isn't that what she does when she describes the pain that is "what it feels like to grieve"?

Since the publication of my book, Loving Grief, I've spoken with many people who have lost spouses, parents, and children. Certainly, the pain of laoss may be great. Yet for many people in grief, pain is not the defining experience.

I, too, do not "coach" people in their grief, not because it can't be done, but because no one has asked me to do it. I have, however, coached many people in other realms of their lives, and that experience leads me to wonder if Melody Beattie has deeply attached herself to pain as an expression of her love for the one or ones she has lost.

Paul Bennett

Mary Ann said...

The only thing I know for sure is my own experience, and Melody describes it well. I think I did go through a period where pain was my expression of love for those I had lost. I also have observed that when people first experience deep grief, they are usually astounded that intensity of the pain. Some of the misery they experience is fear of the intense pain. So knowing it will be very bad for awhile takes away some of the fear and misery. At least it has for me.

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