The Art of Grief (5YTL)

griefWe will all experience loss at times in our lives.

Whether it is the loss of a relationship (professional or otherwise) or the loss of a job or, as I will discuss here, the loss of a family member in death, we will all experience loss several times throughout our lifetime.  It is in those losses that our true character has its greatest opportunity to shine and flourish.

Just over a week ago, I woke early to 23 missed calls on my charging phone.  It is the type of thing that sends a definite chill down your spine and sends your mind to all of the dark corners.  It was just after 5am, and I learned that my 23 year-old nephew had died unexpectedly in the night.  Brandon has suffered all his short life with asthma, so the pulmonary embolism that came to him that night seemed, at first, like an ordinary occurrence.  It was not.

In the whirlwind of days that followed, our family was choosing caskets, funeral songs, burial clothing, and messages and stories to share. Before we could even get our bearings and begin to come to grips with this new reality, there were decisions to be made, contracts to sign, and seemingly hurried goodbyes to be said.  Then, it was done.  As quickly as it had begun, it was over, and Brandon was no longer in our midst.

That’s how loss happens most of the time.  

One minute we are living our reality, and the next it is completely changed.  This happens in lots of scenarios throughout our lives and it lots of ways.  At first, we are so busy adapting and flanking that we almost forget to grieve.  There are so many things that require our attention that we delay our grief, if only for a moment.  The truth is, though, that grief comes to each of us in time.

  • If it is a break-up or divorce, we eventually have to mourn the loss of that relationship.  It’s not always as easy as getting back on the horse.
  • If it is the loss of a job, there can be a lot of relationships to mourn.  Coworkers, clients, responsibilities, and many other identities can die in that type of loss.
  • If it is suffering the death of a loved one, it can shake us to our core.  Through the telling of stories, we can begin to laugh and share in one moment and feel devastated and utterly lost in the next.  

The truth is that there is no right way to grieve.  Every person will experience loss, and every person has to live through that loss individually.  The best thing that we can do for each other is encourage each other to talk.  It is through the processing and sharing of stories that we learn our new cadence.  It is through living in community that we re-shape our identities and learn to love again, find new meaningful work again, and learn to live again with the precious memories of those who have left us.

As I write this, I have had conversations in the last week with someone who lost a dear friend (and three of her children) in a house fire and with a friend who has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, metastasized into her hip.  Life is full of opportunities for connection and adjustment.

I’ll close with a quote from Brandon: “The world changes, because that one great person who passed on was making a difference.”

Whether it is in your professional life or your personal life, or both, I hope you are making the difference you want and need to make.  Tomorrow Begins Today.

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