Acceptance and Grief

After a loved one dies, those who grieve often ruminate about what they or others could have done differently to prevent the death or at least postpone the loss. “If only I had seen the signs and brought my wife to a doctor sooner…”, “If only I had kept him from driving there yesterday…”, and countless other variations of the basic idea “If only the past were different, I would not be suffering in this present.” Such responses are a normal part of the grieving process, but at some point we do need to accept reality as is and appropriate it into our life. In her dissertation on grief, … [Read more...]

Grief and the Quality of the Thoughts

While most people come to know us through our actions, our lives are actually determined by our thoughts. It is precisely in the inner realm of the thoughts that outward action first germinates and later comes to fruition, always supported by the moist or dry, rich or barren, smooth or rocky soil of our thoughts. This is also true for those who are experiencing grief. It is the quality and direction of our thoughts about the departed, about ourselves without that person near us, and about our world in that person’s absence, which ultimately determine the course of our grief and the resolution … [Read more...]

Making Death into a Means to Spiritual Transformation

In a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Yet, most of us spend our lives doing everything possible to avoid them both. Even when a loved one dies some try to escape this grim reality by holding “celebration of life” events rather than a more traditional wake or funeral service. We are surrounded and inundated by cheery, but inane, messages proclaiming youthful vigor, rejuvenation, and bliss in marketing campaigns. All of this makes the grief process more difficult and a search for meaning all … [Read more...]

Bereavement, Grief, and Mourning

No one should underestimate the importance of the words we use to understand the world around us. In Genesis, we read that “the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:9). According to Saint John Chyrsostom, this was written in order that “we might learn not only of his wisdom, but also in order to show the symbol of dominion through the assignment of names” (Homily 14 on Genesis, PG 53.116). Certainly, it was important … [Read more...]