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Grief is something we go through for ourselves, something that allows us to make a transition from having to not having.  When we grieve, we focus on our loss, our "new" life without this person or this pet or this town or this house.  Grief is a healthy response to drastic change, a response that allows us to deal with the pain of loss and get on with our lives.

Many people, though, go through a much longer and stronger grieving period than others, to the point that they make themselves sick or anxious or miserable.  This happens most often when we mix in other elements with the grief--regret or self-pity or anger or resentment or guilt are just a few of the emotions or feelings we can add to the grief and take away our love for life, at least for a time.  Once we add these elements, grief is no longer healthy, but destructive.  It's no longer helpful, but harmful.  And the only way around it is to recognize what we're doing.

Of course, when someone (or a pet) who's been very near to us dies, we're going to grieve much more than we would if the person who has died has never been that close to us.  But I've met very few people who want others to spend weeks and weeks mourning their deaths.  When I talk to people about dying, they usually tell me that they want people to get on with their lives, to keep on living, to enjoy themselves as much as they can until their time to die comes.  I've never talked to anyone who wants people to spend their days focused on the loss, who wants any person to stop living a full life just because of the fact that someone close to them has died.

This is exactly why we have funerals and wakes--they're ceremonies that help us to move on, to deal with the fact of the loss.

But what happens when you add guilt to the grief?  If someone has just died and you feel guilty because you've treated the person poorly, or have done something to that person, then you're not just dealing with grief.  It's like mixing salt with hand lotion--the lotion will never do what it's supposed to do.  The grief will never accomplish its purpose.  It's the same with anger--are you angry over something that person did while alive?  Are you angry that the person has died?  If so, you won't get past the grief, for it's much stronger now, mixed with the second, destructive emotion.

If you're grieving and you can't get over it, try to figure out what that second emotion is, and try to deal with that.  Let the grief do its work without sabotaging it, and deal with any other emotions on their own terms.  Are you feeling guilty because you didn't visit your mother enough during her last months?  Then deal with the guilt separately--there's no changing what you've done in the past, so resolve to be more attentive in the future.  Or sit down and make a list of the many commitments you had during that time, and see if you realistically could have visited much more.  Be honest, and be fair, both with yourself and the situation.  If you could have gone more, then deal with that in the future--life will give you ways to make amends for past mistakes.  Life's really good at that, but we have to keep our eyes and hearts open.

When I die, I hope that no one grieves--I hope they celebrate the fact that I've moved on to a much better place.  I hope to have my wake while I'm still alive, so that I can enjoy the food and the company.  I don't want grief to darken one person's day--I hope it will brighten their lives by allowing them to move on with the process of living the wonderful lives we've been given with only an occasional glance back, with a smile at the memories.

Please don't let the combination of grief and something else consume you.  Let grief free you, and deal with any other feelings separately.  Those who love you want you to see the world brightly, not darkly.



We soon cease to feel the grief at the deaths of our friends,
yet we continue to the end of our lives to miss them. 
They are still with us in their absence.

Gerald Brenan


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Grief rends the heart cleanly, that it may begin to heal.

Morgan Llywelyn


My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life.  Grief is
forever.  It doesn't go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step,
breath for breath.  I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will
never stop loving her.  That's just how it is.  Grief and love are
conjoined, you don't get one without the other.  All I can do is love her,
and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.

Jandy Nelson
The Sky Is Everywhere


Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on
a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you
cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But
if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same
place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love


The human being is a surprisingly resilient organism.  We impel toward health, not sickness.  Your spirit, as surely as your body, will try to heal.

The question you must ask yourself is not if you will heal, but how.  Grief and pain have their own duration, and when they begin to pass, you must take care to guide the shape of the new being you are to become.

So you should not fear tragedy and suffering.  Like love, they make you more a part of the human family.  From them can come your greatest creativity.  They are the fire that burns you pure.

Kent Nerburn
Every great loss demands that we choose life again.  We need
to grieve in order to do this.  The pain we have not grieved over
will always stand between us and life.  When we don't grieve,
a part of us becomes caught in the past like Lot's wife who,
because she looked back, was turned into a pillar of salt.
   Grieving is not about forgetting.  Grieving allows us to heal,
to remember with love rather than pain.  It is a sorting process.
One by one you let go of the things that are gone and you mourn
for them.  One by one you take hold of the things that have
become a part of who you are and build again.

Rachel Naomi Remen

There has never been anything worth obtaining without grief,
or suffering, and disappointment.

Henry Morrison Flagler


It's so curious:  one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest
hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind
a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only
yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips
from a drawer. . . and everything collapses.




Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers o'er the fraught heart and bids it break.

William Shakespeare


When our spirit tells us it is time to weep, we should weep.
It is part of the ritual, if you will, of putting sadness in perspective
and gaining control of the situation. . . . Grief has a purpose.
Grieving does not mean you are weak  It is the first step toward
regaining balance and strength.  Grieving is part of the tempering process.

Joseph M. Marshall III


Grief is a most peculiar thing; were so helpless in the face of it.  Its like a
window that will simply open of its own accord.  The room grows cold,
and we can do nothing but shiver.  But it opens a little less each time,
and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.

Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha


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Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.

William Faulkner


See how time makes all grief decay.

Adelaide Proctor


Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but let us only cling to what
remains, and transfer our love for those whom we
have lost to those who yet live.

Mary Shelley



The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief--But the pain
of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.

Hilary Stanton Zunin


Don't be ashamed to weep; 'tis right to grieve.  Tears are only water, and
flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water.  But there must be
sunlight also.  A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the
memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.

Brian Jacques


The reality is that you will grieve forever.  You will not "get over" the loss of
a loved one; you will learn to live with it.  You will heal and you will build
yourself around the loss you have suffered.  You will be whole again, but you
will never be the same.  Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.

Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross and John Kessler


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Grieving is the way that loss can heal.  Yet many people do not
know how to grieve and heal their losses.  This makes it hard to
find the courage to participate fully in life.  At some deep level,
it may make us unwilling to be openhearted or present, to become
attached or intimate.  We trust our bodies to heal because of the
gift of a billion years of biological evolution.  But how might you life
if you did not know that your body could heal?  Would you ride your
bike, drive a car, use a knife to cut up your dinner?  Or would you
never get off the couch?  Many people have become emotional
couch potatoes because they do not know that they can
heal their hearts.
    Unless we learn to grieve, we may need to live life at a distance
in order to protect ourselves from pain.  We may not be able to risk
having anything that really matters to us or allow ourselves to be
touched, to be intimate, to care or be cared about.  Untouched, we
will suffer anyway.  We just will not be transformed by our suffering.
Grieving may be one of the most fundamental of life skills.  It is the
way that the heart can heal from loss and go on to love again and
grow wise.  If it were up to me, it would be taught in kindergarten,
right up there with taking turns and sharing.

Rachel Naomi Remen
My Grandfather's Blessings

The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the
feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible,
peculiar to him or her alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.

Arthur Schopenhauer


To grieve at any loss, be it of friend or property, weakens mind and body.
It is no help to the friend grieved for.  It is rather an injury; for our sad
thought must reach the person, even if passed to another condition of
existence, and it is a source of pain to that person.

Prentice Mulford


In the Lakota-Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered
most wakan, most holy. There's a sense that when someone is struck
by the sudden lightning of loss, he or she stands on the threshold of the
spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially
strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help.
You might recall what it's like to be with someone who has grieved
deeply. The person has no layer of protection, nothing left to defend.
The mystery is looking out through that person's eyes. For the time
being, he or she has accepted the reality of loss and has stopped
clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness
of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a deep natural wisdom.

Tara Brach

Resistance solidifies grief.  We can allow our griefs to dissolve through
releasing them to the healing rain of tears.  As we weep with loss, our
spiritual landscape is made anew.  All change carries gain as well as
loss.  As I release situations which have troubled me, I release, too,
my identity as troubled.  This shift brings with it intense emotion.  Grief
is the natural and healing component of loss.
Embraced and surrendered to, grief creates transformation.

Julia Cameron

Transitions:  Prayers and
Declarations for a Changing Life



Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.




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