What is Grief?

. . . grief is not here to take us hostage, but instead to reshape us in some fundamental way, to help us become our mature selves, capable of living in the creative tension between grief and gratitude.  In so doing, our hearts are ripened and made available for the great work of loving our lives and this astonishing world.  It is an act of soul activism.
— Francis Weller
 Photo credit:  Lindsay Fitzgerald

Photo credit:  Lindsay Fitzgerald

Grief is both an emotion and a skill set that can be developed.  It has many voices including sadness, irritation, depression, anger, and impatience.  Through practice we can learn to actively allow these expressions of grief to move through us, not just once but on a regular basis, and experience grief's regenerative nature over and over again.  If we care, we grieve and in order to stay healthy and vibrant, we need to metabolize grief regularly with the possibility of allowing it to transform us in the process.

While we usually think of grief in relation to the death of a loved one, grief actually comes in many forms.  Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow, articulates what he calls “The Five Gates of Grief”:


1. Everything we love, we will lose

2. The places that have not known love

3. The sorrows of the world

4. What we expected and did not receive

5. Ancestral grief


Grief is often present yet not acknowledged during times of transition - graduations, weddings, giving birth, menopause, moving, change of job, and of course death.  When we leave something behind, whether we enjoyed it or not, we may mourn the loss of the familiar as we step into something new.  Grief invites us to be reborn again and again.  By acknowledging, making space for and releasing grief, we can experience the vibrancy of life with its full spectrum of emotions and live out our soul purpose.

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