None of us is a stranger to grief.

What is the spiritual significance of grief? If we understand that all that comes, comes from God, we may ask – why does God send us grief?

We may define grief as the condition where sadness is felt as a result of loss of an object – the object being a situation or a person. One longs for that ideal, having had a taste of it, but one knows that one cannot have it. Inherent in grief is the knowledge that one cannot have what one wants, what one considers essential to the good life.

Every child, in his early life, has to contend with the loss of being the centre of the world and becoming “one among others”. The magical state of being the receptacle of love and being closely united with the caregiver sooner or later changes to a more ordinary state where one is usually still loved, but no longer in the exclusive and deeply charged way as before. Psychoanalysts tell us that we repress this experience of loss as children, but it still forms the prototype for all adult experiences of grief. All experiences of loss of the desired object in adulthood are fueled by this first, usually unconscious, experience of loss.

As an adult, if the person is able to accept grief rather than suppress it, the psyche will ask by itself – what then, is life worth living for? If I could not have what I longed for all this while, what now? This question is an invitation from the depths of our hearts to find meaning in life. To discover hidden recesses of meaning in ourselves and to manifest them in the world.

I may lose my wife, the person I loved so much. I long for her presence but know that I can have it only in memories. So what motivates me to live on now? The fact that I could love someone so much means that I have the ability to love, to take care of someone, and to impact their existence in a way that leads them towards a more authentic and fulfilling life. I have the choice to continue to direct it towards my deceased wife, or to take hold of my potential for love and direct it towards other persons – to see that the intimate love for my wife can be directed to another person, or persons, and that love can manifest in many ways that I may so far have not experienced fully. This may cause a new aliveness in the various ways in which I manifest my love – as a companion and comrade to friends, as a supportive co-worker to colleagues, as a caregiver to parents, as a responsible parent to my own children, and as an intimate lover to a new life-partner. Each time I become any of these, I exercise a choice between accepting my grief and still loving, as opposed to shutting myself down because the grief is too much to take.

This is the creation of a new meaning. The new meaning is deeper and more powerful than the old one, for it has been actively sought out, reflected over, and exercised, rather than being spontaneous, as it is may be for one who has loved without having lost.

The other way to respond to grief is to suppress it. Suppressing grief limits our ability to love and to work, for grief seeps into all our activities, and it’s suppression is then a stunting of the energy we have for those activities. The psyche is no longer an ever manifesting spring, but only a fixed log of wood.

Grief and anxiety are perhaps the basic sufferings of life. Grief leads to wisdom – by asking the question “what does life mean?” and anxiety leads to action, or the manifestation of that wisdom – by asking the question “what am I do do?”. Substantial spiritual growth never comes without these two.

Both are messages from God, one to seek wisdom, and the other to act. However, we may often be so totally overwhelmed by them that we need the help of another to see us through. In therapy, the situation encourages acceptance of the loss to a fuller extent than has been possible, while providing emotional security against being consumed by the sheer strength of the grief. Once the loss is mourned, newer possibilities open up for living life.

The musician Leonard Cohen has suffered from depression for most of his adult life. In this song, he talks about God being the source of all we experience:

And who by fire, who by water,
who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
who in your merry merry month of may,
who by very slow decay,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
and who by avalanche, who by powder,
who for his greed, who for his hunger,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
who in solitude, who in this mirror,
who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
who in mortal chains, who in power,
and who shall I say is calling?

~ by tdcatss on March 10, 2012.

5 Responses to “Grief”

  1. Thank you… this is a vast and complex subject, and your insights are most welcome.


  2. Thank you James!

  3. I read some nice posts on your blog, especially the one called ‘shadows’.. It is not possible to comment on them, so I am writing it here that it was a thought-provoking read. Thanks.

  4. I appreciate you so much, Kaif! Thank you for taking on grief . . .not an easy subject! And doing it so eloquently too. Blessings friend!

  5. thank you debbie

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