I can remember fondly reading Charles Shultz’s Peanuts comic strips and finding a kindred spirit in Charlie Brown, particularly when he would throw up his hands, raise his rounded face to the sky and cry out “Good grief!” It was a cathartic release when things were not going his way (which was often).
But, I can’t help but what wonder… what is so good about grief?
It is painful and heavy and a burden that few relish carrying. There is little that seems good about grief.
Grief marks ends. The end of a life, the end of a relationship, the end of an educational or vocational endeavor, the end of a season… things we are not often ready to say goodbye to or quite ready to let go of.
Grief reaches us at our basest and rawest parts of ourselves. Everyone has the capacity to experience grief, but how we express it is as vast and varied and diverse as humanity itself.
A favorite Dr. Seuss quote of mine is, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” It’s rare that I would disagree with Dr. Seuss, but in this case I think I must.
Endings are awful. When I come to the end of a book I am reading or a movie I am watching, I am often faced with (minor) feelings of grief, as the characters I have loved and spent time with are now gone. But when those endings are the big ones – death, lay offs, graduations, break ups, divorces – they require a bit more than the “smile because it happened” prescription of the venerable Dr. Seuss. It is more than ok to cry and to be sad because what once was is no more.
We just can’t stay there forever. Grief is like the scab that leaves a nasty scar after you’ve been cut open. It doesn’t ever fully go away and is a reminder of what we’ve left or lost.
But for every ending, there is potential for a new beginning. Perhaps I would amend Dr. Seuss’s quote to say something like this: “Cry because it’s over and then smile because it happened.”
Let grief happen. It may come in waves as memories cross your mind, or as anniversaries approach or in a singular moment as bad news is delivered or you’re walking out of a building for the last time… it is a good reminder that we’re human and that everything will not always be as it is now.
Grief is painful. Endings are terrible. You may not see the good in grieving, but it is better than bottling up tons of pain and sorrow over years and years, because it eventually it will spill over. Let the hurt come. But at some point, remember to smile.
“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.”