Why do we grieve?
First of all, we grieve for ourselves. If we stop to think clearly and logically—and now, how difficult that may be!—we realize that the person who has died is beyond the problems and feelings of those who mourn his death. So our sorrow is for ourselves. We are sad because we are suddenly, painfully deprived. We ache because we are separated from someone we love and need. We feel this even when we know that death was a release from torment. We feel it even when we admit to ourselves that we would not wish the suffering one back.
Second, there is fear. Our world has changed suddenly, and we do not know what is ahead. That’s one fear, and others may stem from the circumstances of this death. Yet perhaps even more frightening are the childhood fears that are sometimes suddenly and terrifyingly awakened. Often adults, without realizing that they are doing it, instill fear of death in a child, making it a dark, horror-filled mystery. “If I should die before I wake…” has caused more panic in young minds than most well-meaning parents realize. This fear of the unrevealed future, and the realization that someday each of us must pass into it, does not show on the surface as we grow up. We avoid thinking about it. Then suddenly it is something that happens to someone near and dear to us–and we cannot escape it any longer. The fear that has stayed in the background all these years suddenly comes to the surface and causes panic.
And third, there is insecurity. Insecurity means that the solid earth under your feet is crumbling, and you have nothing to hold on to. This feeling, also, may go back to childhood. The dependable grown-ups upon whose stability our small worlds rested “went to pieces” when death occurred. They cried. They said and did unpredictable things. Our feeling of being secure in their care was shattered; and that insecurity, like fear, grew up with us. So now when death takes a loved one from us, our world totters. The future threatens us.
Death is as much a part of life as birth and the years of growth. Nothing causes us greater unhappiness, and yet nothing is more certain. Death is natural. It is not to be feared. It is to be anticipated calmly, as a step in the progress of a person’s soul. Even when death is untimely or accidental, when our health and our spirit are strained to the utmost, it still must be regarded as the release of a spirit into a condition where it can find the fulfillment the Creator intended.
To reason this over and over until you accept it helps banish not only your fear of death but also your feeling of insecurity.
Take time now to ask yourself why you are grieving. Reason tells you that you need not fear death. Reason tells you that death is part of the natural order and will not shatter your world. Reason tells you that the loved one is beyond pain and that you are grieving primarily for yourself. You may not understand this at once. But think of it again and again. Eventually you will feel the healing process begin. But first you must experience the pain of realization.
Don’t condemn yourself. Most of us have such feelings of self-judgment and guilt after we have lost someone who was close to us. Those nagging doubts and recriminations grow from any close relationship with another person. But no one can foresee all that may happen, and no one can go through life doing everything possible to meet every possible turn and twist and change and shift.
We all know that we could have done some things better. To chastise ourselves by dwelling upon our natural, human actions does not make anything better; but it does slow up the process of getting our deep feelings back in balance. We cannot turn the clock back and do anything differently.
If you want to cry, then cry. If you want to protest against the injustice of life, do so. It is better to “let your feelings go” than to bury them deep, where they can fester or eat away at you. Face the full pain of your loss, for your pain is not only deep—it is healthy. It means that you are alive.
“Blessed are those who use their sorrow creatively for they shall find a security that is not shaken by circumstance, but rather produces the fruits of enriched sympathy, heightened understanding and deepened faith.”
YOU AND YOUR GRIEF/Edgar N. Jackson