Skip to content

On Grief & Loss

Also, “f*ck resilience.”

I wrote a paper recently on grief and loss and, as happens when we buy a red car, we see red cars everywhere. I had been conscious that ANZAC Day was coming up and I posted yesterday about the complicated war grief in my DNA. I have been increasingly sad about more and more hard stories coming out from the church I spent nearly 30 years in. I read a memoir on the weekend that I felt in my divorced-now-for-years bones, by Maggie Smith, who wrote the viral poem, Good Bones.

Grief and loss have been tugging at me.

I wrote about it in my story, The Sentimental Non-Believer, how the loss of church and God as I had always known God, disoriented me. How anger and grief are never far from each other, how grief can feel like homesickness.

Image of Book Title

And it’s awkward for others, our grief, isn’t it? People like us to be ok, ‘up’, ‘on’, not such a bummer in social settings. So we say yes I’m fine, and wonder to ourselves shouldn’t I be over this by now?

We know that grief has stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to apply to people with terminal illness, they’ve been expanded to include the bereaved. And they can apply to all sorts of grief.

Not to be underestimated is the grief of losing your job, the death of a pet, your kids leaving home, certainly the end of a relationship.

Grief and loss are physical, they live in our bodies as all trauma does, and can be attended to through caring for your body. Move, float, have a bath, learn to meditate, dance, rage (safely, perhaps with soft things like pillows), cry your heart out. Swear, write letters and stream of consciousness rants. Know the feelings will pass. We move through the stages.

And ignore the platitudes. “F*ck resilience” as Maggie Smith writes. She’d be happy to live with less resilience if it meant her family could be whole again. She’d forgo the chance to make lemonade from her lemons, she’d be ok with not having a book deal to write about her pain. Sometimes things are just awful with nothing to be said that can make them better.

But, as she ends with, this place (insert your situation/life/loss/family) could be beautiful. You can make this place beautiful.

I have accepted that I will probably always have sadness around my divorce and the impact on my children.

I will also always grieve the cost of decades within a harmful ideology and how it stunted my growth.

ANZAC Day will likely always be fragile.

But I can make this place beautiful, lift myself into the waves as they come, as I do when I’m in the ocean, know that they will come and go and allow myself care and tenderness. Permission to feel, permission to let it go, permission to feel joy without betraying the loss. It all belongs.

Go gently.


PS. I’ll include what Worden named the ‘Series of Tasks’ to describe grief and day-to-day things you can do to manage grief of any kind, in tomorrow’s weekly email. You can sign up here.

Written by

You might also enjoy

Regret and Shame

The documentaries keep coming. On cults, megachurch demise and people we may have once looked up to and admired, falling

Read More »

Download 'Melancholy': an excerpt from "The Sentimental Non-Believer."

Melancholy is a reflection on the way Easter used to feel and how it feels now.