The Blessing of Grief

Jan 28, 2010


This post is for people—like me—who worry .

Who may not be currently experiencing grief, but can feel the ever-possibility of it around the corner.

Who forget today’s peace because they are concerned with tomorrow’s impending tragedy.

A death? A divorce? A diagnosis?

That is me.

(And I can’t be alone.)

This post is for us.

 

Two weeks ago I was driving  alone to a meeting downtown. I have a decent fear of driving and always assume I will meet my death behind the wheel. I was in this dismal train-of-thought when I was awakened by a memory.

It was shortly after my first marriage had ended—nine months after it had started—I had returned to my old camping grounds in my parent’s spare bedroom. I sat on the floor crossed legged with my head bumping up against the bed.


Here was my life:

23

Divorced

Living with parents

About to graduate from college

I felt too young to be feeling so old.


I grieved for my “could’ves”—could’ve done, could’ve said, could’ve married instead.

But some time during that session of wondering about lost possibilities, I could feel a slight breeze of hope. In allowing the sensation to grab a hold of my spirit, I began to feel more of it until I was overcome. There, in that empty room, I started to see a vision of what my future would hold. Options and opportunities—far different than a life I had assumed—but just as brilliant.


Then, back in my car driving to my meeting I began to see the blessing of grief. Grief allows us an opportunity to change our expectations into new dimensions. It takes our hand (mostly, our heart) and shows us better alternatives to a life now-changed. Grief, as it turns out, is a method of emotional transportation.

 

My divorce was really quite simple to navigate compared to what life had in store for me after. I married again and spent five years trying to conceive. I felt like a wasteland from head-to-toe—something I was reminded of monthly. But it was always grief that did the psychological dirty work of washing away one hope and replacing it with a shiny new one.


A fall baby instead of a spring baby?


Then when my little sister was barely rescued from a fiery plane crash, having sustained burns all over her body, I had to rely on grief to help me see that should she live or die, life would still retain elements of beauty and happiness. And in her emerging out of it all, all of the pain and soul-searching, there remains something sweet and reassuring.


Though I am not always cognizant of it, I know grief sheds a layer of pride around our souls and helps us to feel something infinitely better—more comfortable, more like home. It is a natural way for us to gain homeostasis, and it is something we are born with as humans. If we allow grief to run its difficult cycle we will emerge as stronger, compassionate and finer beings.

So why worry?

 

*You can read CJane's critically acclaimed blog HERE. A million thanks to Courtney for taking the time to share her thoughts on this subject. She is a miracle worker of words and I believe she hit the nail on the head. Sometimes  being broken is a gift. Thank you, again, for sharing these sentiments and experieneces.


Comments

Rebecca on 01/28/2010
Thank you for giving me hope that there is life after the dark abyss that seems like sometimes it will suck me in and never let me out again. What a beautiful philosphy and what a wonderful post. Many thanks and many prayer for your sister recovery!

Donna Centamore on 01/28/2010
Courtney is a blessing and so loved by so many....she teaches me everyday

Michelle Iverson on 01/28/2010
I love CJane! I wish we could be real friends! She is awesome.

Rose on 01/28/2010
Hmmmm, so wise, so wise. Thank you

Bronwyn Brown on 01/28/2010
Beautiful!

Jo Anne Gooding on 01/28/2010
Nice to be reminded of the blessings of grief. I hadn't really thought of it before. But being a world-class worrier, I can really use the thoughts.

HayleysNana on 01/28/2010
WOW, just beautiful, and very thought provoking. I love your perspective on life! It's so true, there is always hope. Thank you for that reminder. Blessings to you and your family CJane.

Jean on 01/28/2010
Beautiful! Thank you CJane.

Whitney on 01/28/2010
Love the thoughts Courtney! Your parents did a fantastic job raising such wonderful children and I'm sure that the Chief and your soon to be born child will be such marvelous people.

Cori on 01/28/2010
Beautifully spoken. Thanks for sharing your emotional life.

pam on 01/28/2010
Bullshit! Grief is pain. Everyone lives in her tepid grief. Mother, father, sister, husband - all dead. I'm 50. Grief is ugly. Grief is pain!

Johanna on 01/28/2010
Beautifully said. It is a blessing to be able to move through grief and find something good on the other side - but you have to believe it will be there. Really liked this essay.

Bonnie Hunter on 01/28/2010
To Courtney: Beautifully felt and written. To Pam: Not so beautifully expressed but just as poignant. I hope that you can find solace in some way. I can see both points.

carole on 01/28/2010
Another amazing cjane post. You have a gift. Thanks for sharing it with your readers.

Cristie on 01/28/2010
i thought this was inspired. xox

Beth on 01/28/2010
I had a miscarriage a month ago, our third child. I agree that "If we allow grief to run its difficult cycle we will emerge as stronger, compassionate and finer beings." However, sometimes while in the midst of heavy, painful grief it is very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't until we/I are actually through the grief that we can see that indeed I am a better person for what I have endured. My glass is overflowing, it is not half empty. Even in the grief. Love Cjane! Thank you! Blessings

Lindsay on 01/28/2010
Only when we experience grief can we give the tender gift of empathy. Thanks for your gift, Courtney.

Shelby on 01/28/2010
Grief is evolutionary. It is different for everyone. For me, the inability to bear sweet babies will never be overcome. That grief is there, though quieter than before. My sibling didn't make it in his fight with death. That grief is there, though quieter than before. The hope of a long and healthy life was taken from me at the tender age of 16 after a diagnosis of chronic and incurable illness. The grief rests quietly in my heart. No matter. It will all be made right. "He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Thank you, CJane, for the reminder to live in the now...and to hope for the future.

Erin on 01/28/2010
CJane, a beautiful way of expressing an emotion WE all feel at one time or another. I am sorry for your loses, Pam. But remember Courtney’s words…”If we allow grief to run its difficult cycle we will emerge as stronger, compassionate and finer beings.”

Cheri Glover on 01/28/2010
lovely, lovely post. Thank you so. xo

Katie H on 01/28/2010
So many of us have different worries, fears...various forms of grief. Thanks for putting into words what a blessing these experiences can be. I needed this reminder today. :)

S on 01/28/2010
I wish I had the same appreciation for grief. It has consumed me for too many years of my life. It has taken my faith and replaced it with pain. Still, a beautiful post.

Celeste on 01/28/2010
Pam- tepid grief. Scorching. Ouch. Kinda like the pain Nie lives with every day. Hard to bare. I am in a similar situation as you. Dead brother, husband, father. . . . 83 year old, blind mother lives with me. I'm 52. CJ you bless me every day. Pam I can relate, may an angel come and pass this way with you.

Michelle on 01/28/2010
Thankyou cjane for the reminder of the "slight breeze of hope" that can get us through the tough times. God has great things planned for us and uses the grieving times for greater opportunities and to transform us into greater human beings. Thankyou for your wise words and for entertaining us with your insights on your blog!! xx

diana on 01/29/2010
So true. I agree! Grief takes you were you need to be. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah on 01/29/2010
CJane, Thank you for your posts. Such wisdom in one so young! No one gets through life without grief. God is faithful to walk us though it, although it never fully leaves, just changes. As the mom of ten myself,your parents did such a great job with all of you!!

Michelle T on 01/29/2010
What a beautiful post. It has left me to ponder how to find that "slight breeze of hope" as I watch my daughter suffer. What should I be hoping for? Peace of mind...miracles...both? I guess I get dragged down knowing that medical conditions just don't go away and that this trial may never end. I wish it was me instead.

Angenette on 01/29/2010
I have had a lot of trauma in the last few years, and I do an inordinate amount of time worrying about what my future might hold. It has taken me a while to allow myself to grieve and get back to a good place. I love your last paragraph. Thank you for the beautiful post!

Marie on 01/29/2010
Yeah, I agree with Pam. There are pieces of the article, though, that are right on. One place it is completely wrong, though, is that grief doesn't run it's cycle. It doesn't go away. It doesn't have an end. My metaphor is that it is like wearing shoes that are too tight. You will get used to them, the blisters won't be as frequent, but there is going to be something at some time that rubs it all to pain again. Brings the blisters back. Grief is not a cycle. It is not linear. And it is not the fluffy blanket of homeostasis that was just described. And why worry? Well, that is a good question. Worry doesn't exactly prevent things from happening. But it can give you a way to prepare for possibilities, and keep you alert. It may just keep you on your toes enough to prevent disaster or tragedy. And I know that just because you worry it won't prevent heartache from happening again. Maybe won't even keep you from being surprised by it. But don't discredit those who do worry because you have found a different course.

Marie on 01/29/2010
It is deception to say that grief runs a cycle.

js on 01/29/2010
"So why worry?" Well, I guess when everything has turned out "okay" in the end (remarried to a great guy, healthy baby after years of waiting, sister living when she could have easily died) it is easy(ier) to have that attitude. But when you don't get your miracle/blessing/fairy tale ending...and you never remarry, you never get that chubby baby, your loved one dies instead of lives despite your faith/prayers/fasting...its a lot harder to "not worry". My child is dead. I've seen enough tragedy in my life that I do worry...because there are so many things in this cruel world that can break us and forever scar us, no matter how much we "learn" from it, or how much we try to be positive. Mortality is terrifying. And not even the gospel and faith can remedy that. Ya, we'll see them again "someday", but someday doesn't do ANYTHING for me today, tomorrow, or for the rest of my life. I miss my child. Pam, I hear ya. *HUG*

Marie on 01/29/2010
js - thank you for sharing your very keen insight on this. That is right on! I read and hear people getting freaked out about how MAYBE they MIGHT have to deal with some medical problem or even worse (death). They have an "almost" where they face the *possibility* or even in some cases the *likelihood* that they will have to deal with these terrible outcomes that those of us grieving have. I KNOW what it is like to be LIVING with the REALITY of medical problems and uncertainties and even dealing with BURYING my CHILDREN!! So I LITERALLY know what people have to be afraid of. But then, they aren't REALLY facing these things and are just AFRAID of facing them. I hope that the question was asked of THOSE worriers. The author came across to me as saying she is worried only because she has gotten close to the edge enough to see how devastating it would be to fall, and I think (I want to believe) the question is posed to those like her who don't even know what it's like, but only have had opportunity to IMAGINE it. That's where I think the question was coming from, but maybe I'm wrong.

Charity on 01/29/2010
Isn't it wonderful how God can transform any situation. Even the ones that feel for so long that the grief will never end. Cjane, this was a beautiful post.

Miss M on 01/29/2010
Here's the thing about cjane. She is not the final word on grief (or anything else, for that matter). She is not your prophet or your savior or your guru. She is simply a woman sharing her perspective. She is no more "inspired" than you are. She just has a gift of being able to communicate better in writing than the average person. I think the point many here are trying to make is that there are varying degrees of grief. Some grief is temporary and some grief is never ending. There's no "one size fits all" way to define or describe it. It doesn't fit in a box. Her grief had a cycle. But you are right: she has never buried a child or a parent, and until she does, she will never understand grief at that depth. But it doesn't mean the grief she feels over her infertility or her sister's accident is any less valid. Anyway, I'm laughing that I'm kind of defending her because I'm not one of her uber-devoted fans that wishes we were friends in real life (although I find her to be charming, occasionally witty, and a pretty good writer whose blog is generally more entertaining than deep). Just my two cents...

Ellison on 01/29/2010
I'd just like to add that God is not a required element in transforming people out of their grief. Read the blog of Matt Logelin whose wife died after giving birth to their first child. Grief? Unimaginable. God? Not so much. And yet you'll see he has still found a way to be happy. The human condition is one of strength and resilience. I've seen people triumph through unimaginable tragedy without any belief in God or religion whatsoever. I used to feel so sorry for those people. But now I believe it's possible to find joy amidst the suffering--with God or without Him--because I've seen it happen.

Molly on 01/29/2010
Ellison, Great point. People have often said to me, "Can you imagine going through this without knowing what you know??" (This is Molly, the founder of this blog who lost her daughter, Lucy). For some reason, that platitude never sat right with me. I thought, "Yes, I can imagine going through this without God, or a belief in the after-life...or whatever it is YOU think I KNOW." (I guess as Mormons we think we all know the same things). But in reality, we all "know" different things. We believe different things that help us through the heartache. But I think the universal belief is in HOPE. And wherever we believe that hope comes from (God, the human family, the light of Christ, LOVE, etc, etc) is what pulls us through. I absolutely love what you shared. I have often thought that some in my religion think my pain and grief should be less because of our doctrine. But the truth is, no matter our religious beliefs, we all suffer IMMENSELY, we all hope immensely, we love immensely, we miss immensely. The small steps we take to enjoy life again as we see it through our new eyes, are steps made as individually as our losses. I guess it depends on how we label it.

E on 01/29/2010
I don't normally read this blog/website, but a friend referred me to it because she said it was a "controversial" post on grief, and if anyone knows grief, it would be me. Without giving every dirty detail, I have certainly experienced hardship and pain in my life. I grew up in Provo (which is painful enough!) and was orphaned by my first semester in college. I watched my parents die, particularly my mother, and cared for her the last month of her life. Quite a heavy burden for someone who should be having NCMO parties at BYU. Despite having five siblings, I have zero family support and, for all intents and purposes, am alone in this world. I am now nearly 31 years old and single. And let's face it, is there anything considered worse in the Mormon community than a single woman? No, I'm not "weird", ugly (should that even matter?), unfaithful (I'm a faith endowed member), or socially awkward. Marriage has just never happened for me. I've dated every man in the world it seems, but I've never been "blessed" with marriage. I have a Master's degree (I put myself through school on my own not only financially but emotionally) and now find myself in a position of being unhireable due to horrible economy. Yet, I have no husband's income to rely on, no parents' house to crash at. My point is, some of us have to actually go it alone. So, when I read this post, I can't help but think that the author just doesn't "get it" when it comes to grief. Certainly, she has gone through grief that was -- and is -- horrible, but I think it borders on offensive to compare grief that turned out with everything being "okay" to the real, nitty-gritty grief that people all over this world suffer through. I'm truly sorry the author was divorced and had to move into her parents' house. But some of us never got a husband in the first place and don't have a place to go "home" to, ever. I'm sorry the author had to go suffer through five years of infertility, but I (and many others) have suffered through the realization that motherhood will not happen for us. I'm sorry that the author had to deal with the trials of a loved one suffering and being close to death (that truly does get my deepest sympathies), but some of us have actually had to watch that loved one die, and have had to live with the aftermath (which, I assure you, is far worse than watching them suffer). Finally, the point I hope to make strongest in terms of this post is that, no, grief is NOT a cycle that needs to run its course and that you "get through". Perhaps there are others who experience trials that are on a median level that can be overcome with finishing the "cycle", but for those who are experiencing true grief, no, there is no such thing as a cycle that ends. I'm not trying to plug my own blog, but I recently wrote a post of my own a couple months ago on grief and compared it to an alarm. I am sharing it for those who can relate to a deeper grief, but also for those who want to gain a true understanding of what tragic grief feels like. http://shmemilee.blogspot.com/2009/12/like-alarm.html

Kelli on 01/29/2010
I think what CJane wrote is entirely appropriate for her experience, obviously some have had devastating loss and grief to deal with, but I don't think she was trying to take away from your pain or force you to believe something you don't. EVERYONE experiences loss and pain but that does not mean that your pain is worse than mine because we have not shared the same experience. I think Cjane's point was that there is reason to hope and believe that our future holds "options and opportunities" and that through and because of the grief we will become "stronger, compassionate, finer beings." And that is a blessing.

c jane on 01/29/2010
Thanks everyone for a good discussion. I appreciate the new insights and the encouragement as well. Here are thoughts I've had: Pam, you probably have a lot to teach me. I can always learn more. I do believe grief is cyclical. It seems to come and go, ebb and flow just like any cyclic endeavor. It seems just as I have let my heart heal, something (some memory, some conversation, whatever it might be) will cause it to break again--and the cycle continues. Only I believe that with each ensuing cycle we get stronger, more full of hope and more complete--though we may never be whole. I didn't mean to imply that it is a cycle which indefinitely stops at some point--never to return again. js, I think you and I might be using worry and faith interchangeably. Where you are saying worry helps you prepare for tragedy, I would say faith helps me. I don't associate worry with anything constructive, so I choose to have faith that when it is my turn to grieve I will be strong enough to do it, no matter what the experience. In the meantime, I don't know what good worrying does except ruin the good I feel now. And perhaps it looks as though I have the happy endings, but I have to fight really hard to make it so. I still get jealous when people tell me they are pregnant (yes, even whilst pregnant myself). I continue to work on iliminating bitter infertile feelings out of my system. I wouldn't call it especially fairy tale (unless you are calling me the wicked witch)I think the longer I live the more it cycles through me. This is my experience anyway. (and thank you for your comments, I found them insightful.) and to Miss M, thanks for your reminder. You might not want to hang out with me, but what if I hang out with you?

Ellison on 01/29/2010
Hey Molly. I think you hit the nail on the head. You said better what I was trying to articulate. It's hope. It's essential to the human condition. I'm so thankful for it. I'm sure a lot of people have recommend books about grief, but I have something a little different. There is a great book called Half The Sky written by my favorite journalist about the abuses of women around the world and how educating and empowering them is the key to ending global poverty. Talk about powerful stories. But there is so much hope--despite unimaginable circumstances--and it comes pouring through the pages. One of my goals this year is to find a way to be inspired every day. And things like that book and your blog are part of my journey. To feel inspired is to feel alive. Anyway, I ramble. But I think you are an incredibly brave woman. And you give me hope that if I ever had to endure what you've endured, I'd find a way out of my pain, even if it's only for a few minutes on some days. May joy, hope and inspiration find a way into your heart every day, Miss Molly!

Sarah on 01/29/2010
Everyone grieves for different and difficult experiences. I loved this post. Let us not judge each other on who has the right to grieve over what. I am 30 years old with a wonderful husband, and 4 beautiful children. I had a short lived failed first marraige that I grieved over & had every right too. I still find myself grieving at times over my parents painful divorce after 26 years of marraige. Life is hard, and I FIRMLY believe grief can strengthen us, and help those around us. Thanks for the beautiful post CJane!

Miss M on 01/30/2010
C jane, Ha. You are funny. If you really, really wanted to hang out with me, I'd consider it. But I live about 1000 miles from good ol' happy valley, so it's probably not that practical! But back to the blog topic. Here's an analogy I think many of us can relate to. I have always struggled with 50 lbs. I'm up and down, just like Oprah. It used to make me so mad when women who didn't appear to have a weight problem complained about their weight. Then one night, my friend, who was 15 lbs heavier than she'd ever been (but by no means fat), sat in my kitchen and cried her eyes out. And then it hit me...her pain over this is the same as mine, even though I don't think it's valid and that I'M the one with the REAL problem. Her clothes don't fit, her self esteem is suffering, and she doesn't feel attractive and desirable. So it taught me a valuable lesson: just because someone has less weight to lose than I do doesn't mean that they don't feel the same pain. Before I get hammered, I don't mean to imply that being overweight and losing a loved one are even remotely the same. But what I am saying is that even when we think OUR loss is bigger and therefore, everyone else who grieves or whines is a big complainer because they have no idea what it REALLY feels like, well, maybe we should revaluate that stance. Because while they may not yet know what it really feels like to suffer such a huge loss, in their own minds, whatever they are grieving is all consuming and overwhelming just the same. The truth is that it's hard to have perspective until you have something else to compare it to. You probably thought that your divorce was the worst thing that had ever happened to you until you suffered infertility. And then THAT was the worst thing until your sister nearly died. Hopefully, this makes sense to someone. But it probably doesn't, and that's why I don't have a blog! I think compassion is the key. Like Molly said in her comment, human suffering is inevitable. Molly and c jane, you both have powerful stories. Thanks for sharing.

Amanda on 01/30/2010
I love your comment Sarah. It is so true. I loved this post too.

rachel on 02/01/2010
thanks for this post cjane!

Melissa on 02/03/2010
Thanks so much for the post CJane, I think you're awesome and I read your blog all the time. I've gone through some stuff that I wish I wouldn't have had to, but I truly feel everything, even grief, has a purpose and in the end, I will be a stronger woman because of it.

Marnee on 02/04/2010
Fascinating outlook. Last week the epiphany finally burt upon me in full force that having two kids (uniquely gifted and challenged) completely disinterested in cubs and boy scouts, and a tirelessly working husband (read - works days & many nights)has blessed me with the opportunity to say "NO" to many activities and not feel guilty. I've let go of so many non-essentials which I've occasionally look on as scheduling burdens. Released - by myself - with permission. And a sense of freedom is born.

Lynne Wilburn on 02/10/2010
I lost Emily 45 minutes after she was born in 1982. I had known for 2 months that I would probably lose her. I still grieve but not in the same way I did. I have 8 grandchildren and my oldest grandaughter is named after her mom's sister, my daughter. We celebrate her birthday every year not with a party but with best wishes from many friends and family. The loss of a child never fades but becomes bittersweet as each year passes. She is never forgotten and it is because we purposely remember her as a member of our family. Christmas and other holidays are hard some years and not so hard other times. It really pulls at my heart when I meet or see a grieving mother. Only those who have lost will ever really begin to understand what grief is. I can tell you that you remember your child and include that child throughout the years and make that child part of your family. We do it because we want to remember her and remember that we know that we will see her again. After all these years I can still feel the pain and understand the hollow feeling inside of you thinking that you won't ever be happy again. I can tell you now that you will feel guilt free in laughter and be able to go on. Time passes and even though you feel like you don't want to give up the memory of your child, you will learn to cope. You dont have to forget. Life will go on and you will get through this time and be able to have some good memories even though they are hard memories. The best thing you can say to someone who has gone through a loss is "I am sorry for your loss." Thats all you need to say. It will make them feel better. I hope that this helps someone who feels like they won't get through this experience.

js on 03/05/2010
The problem I have with this post is because this website is supposed to be for those grieving. I understand that CJane has gone through events in her life that caused her to grieve at the time, but she is well past it. And while some things may still be a struggle (having that initial kneejerk jealous reaction when others announce they are pregnant) she is for the most part, past it, and healed. Largely because in the end, she was granted the things she grieved over not having-- a good marriage, a baby, a happy life. When the odds turn up in your favor, its easier to "forgive and forget". For those of who grieve PERMANENT losses that can never be changed or rectified here in this mortal state, it is not quite so easy. I realize that Molly is generating some good traffic from having the prominent CJane post, but in my opinion its bringing the exact type of people over here that make grieving so very hard. The ones who just don't get it because they've never gone through it. Most of the comments here are just from CJane fans...not from people seeking understanding and comfort in their trauma and pain. So of course its all well and good for them to say "woohoo, beautiful post! Yay, CJane!" and then reprimand those of us who are in the depths of their sorrows. Honestly, I wish Nienie had been given the opportunity to post instead of CJane. She is grieving a real, permanent, current loss. I suppose she is too busy to do that right now, so CJane had to suffice. But I hope Molly gives more pause to those she invites onto this blog in the future. I understand there is the desire to uplift and bring hope...but is this a chicken-soup-for-the-soul blog, or a grief support community? Because I feel like it can't be both...at least not in the way CJane is proposing. Maybe if this was posted under infertility instead of just grief, I'd feel differently. But I just really, truly feel like the things she has experienced are NOWHERE NEAR the same as grieving over the loss of a spouse or child. (and I was once a divorced mom of two under two years old who thought no one would veer love me again)

Molly on 03/05/2010
JS- I see your point. I want you to know that Nie actually did post a few months before CJane. http://www.agoodgrief.com/blog.php?id=5 While I do believe there is no imaginary "Richter Scale" of grief (pain is pain and is our own pain), I do believe that some trials are DEFINITELY more difficult than others. I enjoy getting perspectives on grief from varied experiences. Those providing support, those in the beginning, those watching from the sidelines, those having lost, those having almost lost...I think it paints a fuller picture and helps us all learn from one another. CJane has even emailed me after reading some of these comments inquiring if she "gets it" or not. Even interacting one on one with other mom's who have lost children, I don't always "get the pain" and experience that they have gone through. I do give careful thought about the posts I publish--and I will continue to do so in the future. Thank you for allowing me to see it from your perspective and for the reminders.

Abercrombie Fitch on 06/13/2013
When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with all the exact same comment. Is there any way you are able to get rid of me from that service? Thank you!


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