A Conversation with Grief

John Koop HarderCounselling0 Comments

two people having a conversation about grief

In my work as a counsellor, I am often asked about strategies to move past the grief.  Grief is uncomfortable and painful and takes time and effort to deal with it.  However, if grief was a container and we had the opportunity to look into it, we would see that it can teach us about what is important in our lives and the world around us.  One of my key learnings on grief is not to rush away from it.  In fact, we must turn towards it.  Press into it.  Get to know it.  Carry it with you.  Learn from it.

As learning comes best in dialogue, I often encourage clients to imagine a conversation with grief.  At times, we even role play such a conversation.  If I had an opportunity to interview Grief, I imagine that it might go something like this.

[JOHN]

Hello, Grief.  Can I call you Grief? Or what would you prefer to be called?

[GRIEF]

People know me by many names.  Some know me as Sorrow, Despair or The Blackness.  But, you can call me Grief if you want.

[JOHN]

Tell me a bit about yourself.  What keeps you busy?

[GRIEF]

Busy?  That’s a good one!  I am extremely busy.  I’m well known in all walks of life.  In fact, everyone knows me and spends time with me whether they like it or not!  With such a social calendar, I have very little down time.

[JOHN]

Being so widely known, I’m wondering how people view you?

[GRIEF]

Unfortunately, I am often shunned and avoided.  People think I’m out to cause pain and misery wherever I go.

[JOHN]

Does that fit for you?

[GRIEF]

Definitely not. Sure, sadness and sorrow are part of me, but it isn’t everything.  I don’t think people can have love, joy, or happiness without me. Tolstoy put it best: “Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”

[JOHN]

That is a great quote. So, it sounds like you have gotten a bad reputation.  How do you want to be known?

[GRIEF]

I kind of fancy myself as a teacher.  You (and everyone else) can learn a lot about yourself, what is important in life, what is valued, by spending some quality time with me.  If I may quote Lord Byron, “Sorrows are our best educators. A person can see further through a tear than a telescope”.  The thing is, the lessons learned by hanging out with me are difficult.  A person needs, time, patience, courage and most importantly supports.

[JOHN]

A teacher?  Do people often see you this way?

[GRIEF]

Some do, but most people do their best to avoid me. If people take the time to get to know me, some do begin to welcome me.  Say, have you heard this one?  According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Does that sound right? This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!

[JOHN]

(laughing) I don’t think many people would expect you to have a sense of humour!

[GRIEF]

Yes, I like to hang out with Laughter.  I find we work well together.

[JOHN]

I am getting to see a different side of you here.  But let’s face it, it’s not all learning and laughter.  Do you ever find problems follow you?

[GRIEF]

Yes, unfortunately.  Sometimes I am just too much to bear and people just turn off.

[JOHN]

What do you mean “turn off”?

[GRIEF]

They turn off as a way of coping.  Some turn to drugs or alcohol, others, lose themselves in their work, gambling and so on.  A visit from Addiction become a reality for some.  For others, “turning off” looks more like Depression.  Sometimes Anxiety creeps in. The unfortunate thing is, I am still there.  These things just tend to pause or cover over the pain of the loss.

[JOHN]

So these are friends of yours – Addictions, Depression and Anxiety?

[GRIEF]

I wouldn’t really call them friends. But, they sometimes follow me around and tend to get in the way of things.

[JOHN]

That sounds complicated.  As you know, I work a lot with people in their relationship with you.  Do you have any advice I could pass to them?

[GRIEF]

Tell them: I am part of your life.  You have known me since birth and will continue to know me until you die.  We have a life long relationship whether you want to acknowledge it or not.  Take the time to invest in and consider our relationship.  When you do, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are the better for it.  Reflecting on our relationship may also help prepare you for the next time I come to visit.

[JOHN]

Thank you Grief for taking the time to meet today.  I found this most interesting.  I’m assuming we will meet again…

[GRIEF]

It’s only a matter of time! See you soon.

We all have a relationship with Grief.  As with any important relationship, it is important to be engaged and intentional.  I wonder what you will learn from Grief during its next visit with you?

This blog is a sample from an upcoming book CTRI is publishing.  This book will be released January 2018. For more information please visit ACHIEVE Publishing.

John Koop Harder, MSW, RSW
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute Inc.

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