Grief Revisited



I’ve been feeling it again lately.

On December 2nd, David’s birthday, I found myself crying. That’s unusual. Several birthdays have passed since his death and they haven’t caused such a reaction in me.

But that day I missed him.

I was feeling particularly tender and vulnerable. Continuing to live in this uncertain, “in-between” place was affecting me.

And there was something more.

A little over three months ago, in the predawn hours, I awoke to a message on my phone from a good friend from the past. Lisa had reached out to me because her husband had just died. Shocked out of my groggy half-awake state, I texted back that I was here if she wanted to talk.

Lisa and her husband Kevin had been good friends of ours in the early years of our marriages when we lived in Connecticut. We’d stayed in touch after moving away and even wound up living in the neighboring states of Virginia and North Carolina. Occasionally we’d meet halfway for family camping trips.

We had this history together.  We’d begun our marriages around the same time. Had both experienced the years of longing for a child and waiting and hoping and waiting some more. Finally rejoicing in each other’s gift  — a son for me, a daughter for Lisa. Our friendship was comfortable and comforting.

Listening to Lisa that morning, my own grief came back to me just as clearly as if I were reliving it with her. I remembered how I’d felt as if a hole had been ripped through my heart. How else can you describe losing your best friend and most intimate partner? The person you tell everything to, share everything with. The one who knows you better than anyone. The love of your life.

Yes, I understood that pain. I could empathize. But what surprised me is how easily I felt this grief again. I remembered how bottomless and debilitating it had felt. How at times I’d thought I couldn’t possibly heal.

More than anything in that moment, I wanted to take that pain from my friend.  Even if it meant I had to relive it for her.

Because I have crossed over this threshold, I know I can survive it. And much more than that — I know that joy and love and fullness of life exist even in the midst of such pain. I already know this.

But Lisa doesn’t. At least not yet.

I got off the phone that morning asking, why so much pain? Why must we experience so much pain?grief-loss1

I don’t really know the answer to that question.

But I do know that if I close my heart off to feeling as a result of my deep loss, I will close myself off from the greatest adventure and fulfillment of my life.

Here’s what is clear to me:

That grief and the healing power of transformation are connected.

That compassion has grown in me because of my own grief.

That grieving is not a singular event . The door to my heart has been broken open; I can’t go back to allowing myself not to feel.

That all of it is sacred and trustworthy. Even the painful stuff.

And I can trust the One who remained with me through the deepest darkness of my grief.


Many of us are grieving at this time of year. Some of it is due to the upcoming Christmas holiday, which can magnify our loneliness and pain, especially when we’ve lost loved ones.

Some of the grief, I believe, is due to this recent presidential election. I know I have felt anxiety and a real sadness for those who are vulnerable, including Mother Earth. There’s a collective grieving happening. I’ve heard this from others as well.

For me, the call is to live with greater compassion. Even, and especially, if it means feeling the pain of the other.

As insight meditation teacher Tara Brach explained in a recent talk on Bodhisattva for Our Times, going through your personal grief brings you to the universal.

She says, “Let grief transform you. Then make a conscious choice to be a light.”

That in itself is reason enough for me to allow myself to feel the pain of grieving. I want, and I choose, to be a light in the darkness.

“We’re all in it together and we can trust that even in the long, dark nights of winter our hearts are turning toward the light.” (Tara Brach)

9 thoughts on “Grief Revisited

  1. Michele Cavoto

    Pauline, so well written. Thank you for your insight and for sharing your spiritual journey. Your light shines brightly but then, light does shine brightest through darkness and you have been through some darkness. Prayers continue for you and for God’s work through you, dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. I have not experienced the grief of losing a cherished spouse, but I have had my lessons in grief. I know both the pain of grief and the value of experiencing it rather than avoiding it. However, the political kind of grief has hit me unexpectedly. Even as a student of history with a realism that sometimes comes across as cynicism, I could not understand this until I experienced it. I also see it as something I may need to set aside for a while as events unfold. No matter how I look at current events, we have work ahead of us. Personal life has that, too, but we can choose our pace in personal life. That does not apply to larger events. We are experiencing the reason that, “May you live in interesting times” is a curse, not a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pauline

      Thank you. Yes, there definitely is grieving happening on a larger scale. As events unfold, try to stay open to all your feelings, knowing you’re not alone in them. And, yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful post, Pauline. And I definitely relate the the grieving that is happening as a result of the election. It’s a bit baffling as I’ve never experienced this kind of collective grief before. And it also feels like an awakening of a larger level of compassion in me, so thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob Morrell

    Thank you, Pauline. I have not experienced the unique, and (I suspect) the uniquely painful loss of a spouse. But, as is likely true for any of us who has lived 5-6 decades or more, I have had my share of pain and grief. And here’s one of the mysteries of grief, which you alluded to in your piece: the more fully we feel our loss, the more completely we permit ourselves to let our grief run its course, in all of its particularities and detail, the more our hearts are opened (sometimes even against our will!) and the more we may feel connection with, and compassion toward, others who are suffering. And the more willing we are to give voice to the seemingly unique features of the relationship we had with our loved one, the more others seem to recognize, and empathize with, our loss. I cannot explain the paradox, but I have felt it many times: the more willing we are to plumb the depths of our grief, in all of its particularities, the more universal the response in others. It is almost as if that connection supersedes, or precedes, any differences that may exist in language, culture, or background.
    And, after all those words, it’s still a mystery to me…

    Liked by 1 person

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