We Need to Grieve

Grief is a natural process, one which our culture pressures us to either avoid or process quickly with the assistance of therapy. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith; in one chapter she writes about her experience grieving the death of a dear friend as well as the dissolution of a romantic relationship:

All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps up in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it. …I’m pretty sure that it is only by experiencing that ocean of sadness that we come to be healed — which is to say, that we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace.

I’ve been fortunate in my four decades to be spared the loss of a human beloved through death, but I have said goodbye to a number of cat companions. The last one was especially tragic for reasons I won’t enumerate here, but I did experience what Lamott is describing. Grief is harrowing, but in its way, the experience cleanses the soul.

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