Good Grief

Tuesday Jul. 6th, 2010

Do you believe we can adjust our attitudes to live our lives in a natural, healthy way? If you answered yes, or are merely intrigued with the idea, let’s consider one crucial element that always seems to get shortchanged in our attitude adjustments: our relationship to grief.

Now you may think, “Grief is so negative. Isn’t part of a healthy attitude focusing on the positive?” Or as the old song goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”

Well, maybe grief isn’t necessarily a negative concept, dear readers. Consider: all life has a certain rhythm, shall we say. The stars in the heavens, the leaves on the trees, the blood coursing through our veins move to a pre-determined tempo that defines our days.  Even some of our phrases explaining phenomena outside of that regular tempo use this idea.  “The heavens moved!” “His blood boiled!” Exclamations meant to show something out of the ordinary.

We take great care to govern as many aspects of our daily lives in a healthy manner as possible. Yet the one major inescapable event we tend to either ignore or pretend doesn’t exist, is the end of that daily life. OK, let’s say it all together now, so it won’t be so difficult! We pass away out of this life. Every one of us. We “die.”

My 88-year old dad passed away a few years ago. He lived a long, good life, was surrounded by family at his passing, and left in no pain during his sleep. All good, to my thinking. Yet I was astonished by the depth of grief that continued to come over me in waves for a period of time afterwards. Hadn’t I been preparing myself for his leave-taking for years? Didn’t I feel I had spent ample time and communication with my dad during his later years? So why this feeling of loss?

A friend said it well. Grief has its own rhythm and it buys you membership into a unique club. People who through their experience of loss allow the mourning of a passing phase of life to be expressed are completing a vital aspect of their development as human beings. In other words, the great wheel of life has not fulfilled its cycle in us until we acknowledge our participation in each of the stages of the birth-death-rebirth rhythm we see all around us.

And how natural is that? A friend was expressing his surprise at how much sorrow he felt after the passing of his longtime animal companion. Yet that very expression of sorrow is part of the celebration of our connection to life. How can that possibly be a negative?

So as we celebrate the coming of summer into our lives with all its greenery and new life, give a nod to the fallow earth of winter as the necessary foundation for our present enjoyment. Celebrate all the seasons of your life. From darkness comes light. Good grief! Good joy! Good life!

Robert Worobec, Owner of Oak Street Natural Market & Deli in Bozeman & FoodWorks Natural Market in Livingston