Life that Works: Many Faces of Grief

February 8th, 2011

“Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love.” ~Terri Guillemets

Grief is a complicated emotion that easily overwhelms. It can look like anger, numbness or pure heartbreaking sadness. Especially among young people, grief can be delayed and even full openness to the experience does not hurry it. Grief is one of the most honorable and time consuming experiences that life offers.

The pure heart of grief is sadness, a much misunderstood space that is too often avoided. Emerson reminds us, “Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” It is not hard to see why we avoid the depth of this vulnerable place. But there is no winning it over, there is only the journey through. Avoiding the pain of life cuts you off not just from the difficult experiences, but the positive ones, too. It is a form of sleepwalking that often turns into a self-medicated, vacant relationship to everything.

Watching the many faces of grief that fill the high school and surrounding community now are hard to digest. It is easy for grief to feel out of proportion when you share it with a group as large as a high school. The closest friends may not have been there when they passed away, others were there sharing a trauma hard to digest outside the group;  others just suffer from the shock of another classmate lost.

Many of the students struggle with a lacking vocabulary and familiarity with the expanse of emotional experience that surrounds them. Grief is everywhere and still people feel alone with their own experience. Maybe this is rightly so, because in the end, working through our own grief is a singular and personal experience, which is a kind of reckoning that each must come to on their own.

Grief is a process that takes a lot of love. Embracing grief is a life lesson that many of the kids in our community might not have been prepared for or even interested in. However, their ability to welcome this painful but healing process into their friendships with others and themselves might be the biggest lesson they take away from this high school year.

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