Grief: Avoiding, Quitting Early or Staying too Long

I am reminded this week of our natural tendency to avoid the pain of grief, as a friend tells me of the quick demise of his marriage and the subsequent speed of a new relationship.

I tell him openly he is making a mistake.

He will continue anyway.

In Marianne Williamson’s words “it’s not neurotic to grieve a relationship; what’s neurotic is when we don’t.”

It has always amazed me that people can spend years together in a relationship and profess to love a person and yet not grieve their loss.

It tells me two things.  First, they never loved the person in the first place or second, they are in denial and will carry the grief/resentment/bitterness around until the day the die.

Both sad.

I am not immune.  I too can attempt to avoid the pain.  Only now am I sharper at recognising when I am.  Only now am I able to self correct sooner.  It can take years of practice.

We do it not only in relationships.

We do it, every time we take the easy road, every time we look for the quick fix and every time we look for instant gratification.

In our wisdom, we want to bypass a completely natural process.  The results produced are therefore completely unnatural. Worse, they can be downright harmful.

Emotional pain …. the facts:

– Emotional pain experienced after loss is part of a natural and healthy process.
– Resisting this natural process causes harm to self and others.
– Attempting to avoid loss, through bonds of manipulation and control creates an illusion of safety that is not real.
– Only those prepared to face their pain and grieve will learn to live a life filled with joy and fulfilment.
– The more conscious you become, the more pain can be felt. Thereby the temptation to run will be heightened.
– Grieving does not need to be an excessively long period unless a mental story has been attached to it.  This can turn into a self pity drama.

Three main considerations …..
1) Avoiding – Fear will keep you from entering the process altogether. Fear will keep you running from yourself and others.  Fear will leave its footprints all over your hardened heart.  It will create a wall that keeps you from expressing yourself truly for fear of loss.  Fear will keep you from loving with your whole heart.

2) Quitting early –  the uncomfortable feelings of sadness, confusion, anger etc if processed healthily will create space.  It is in this space as William Bridges (an author whom I respect and admire) explains that the genuinely new is created.  It is incredibly difficult to watch a person process their grief and then abort the process because they are bored and don’t like the feeling of nothingness (this in between stage).  It literally breaks my heart and I see it time and time again. A lack of patience, an unwillingness to see the process through to conclusion puts all the good work to waste. Such a shame.

3) Staying too long – misery can become a comfort blanket. I have been caught here in the past.  Wallowing way longer than is necessary.  It can take sharp words to wake a person up.  Mine came from my father, the wisdom passed from my much loved granny.  A true Glasgow woman with a massive heart and strength of spirit only born in those who have suffered greatly.  The words….. “smile and the world smiles with you.  Weep and you weep alone.”  She may have stolen these from a song.  Anyway, his words were enough to break my mental pattern.  I was grateful.

So if you find yourself like my friend, ending a relationship or anything of great significance, I urge you to take the road less travelled, to brave the wilderness and to see it through until its conclusion.

It may not feel good.
It may dangle you over the cliff edge.
It may even break you for a short while.
Trust this….
Something deeper is happening, something that has your best interest at heart.
It will not lead you astray, as long as you follow.
Follow the heart.


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