Good Grief?

Over the years I’ve heard three predominant thoughts on the value of grief. One is that grief is bad and unnecessary to the human experience. This is not taught from an expert or clinical standpoint, but more from the everyday, practical view. I completely understand this mode of thinking. Right after a traumatic loss, grief hurts and the pain can be overwhelming. Who would want that or think it’s “good”? The second thought on grief is that it is neither good nor bad…it just is. This group finds that grief is a natural byproduct of loss and something humans must work through. The final camp (you guessed it, the one I belong in) believes grief is actually good. I go as far as to say it is a gift.
Here is the primary reason I feel the way I do. Grief is a reminder of the love and connection we have with someone or even something. I see it as a bridge between something we once had and cherished and something that for whatever reason can no longer be experienced and enjoyed.
I say this in grief group a lot, but I do not grieve things I do not like. It has never happened. I often use this sort of silly example to make the point. Over the last few months I have found myself “grieving” my life in Florida. Just the other day I was thinking about the random afternoons when my family would decide to pack-up, drive the whole 10 minutes to St. Pete beach, swim for a few hours, eat at Chick-Fil-A across the street, watch the sunset, and then drive back home. You might understand why I would miss this. On the flipside of that, my family once lived in an area we don’t miss at all. This place was just not a good fit for us. Do I grieve living there? No way. There is no love and connection with this other area. However, there’s a long laundry list of connections with Florida.
So I don’t grieve things I don’t like, but why I do think grief is good? Using a more serious example… I lost my mom when I was a teenager. It’s hard to believe, but it has been over 25 years. Wow! Even after all this time I still have hard days missing my mom. Sometime they are the typical hard days (anniversaries, holidays, etc.) and sometime the difficult days seem to come out of nowhere. These days are sad and draining, but they also serve as a reminder that, emotionally speaking, the loss of my mom wasn’t that long ago. Inwardly, to my heart our connection still remains. My love for her has not lessened with time. The grief helps bridge the gap between my life with her and my life since she left. And as strange as it may sound, I take comfort in knowing that her life and death still deeply affects me and always will.
Billy Mitchell
Bereavement Coordinator