what good is grief

"Snap out of it. Time to move on!" We’ve all heard the world’s business-model advice to the broken hearted. Friends and relatives who are uncomfortable around our grief try to cheer us up, distract us, or convince us that we’ll "get over it." If we’ve lost a love, they remind us about all those other fish who are eagerly swimming in the sea. We, however, are neither cheered nor ready to go fishing.
In this culture, we are not raised to use grief for growth. It’s treated more like a low-level, self-indulgent illness-the right words or a little vacation are supposed to bring us back to the smiling person we were, just as if nothing had ever happened. A woman I know lost her daughter to cancer. “Kelly was a generous, caring human being,” she says. “But my friends and family are tired of hearing me talk about her. They don’t know what to say to help me. I don’t need words of sympathy. I just want them to remember her life with me and take joy in who she was.”
Many people don’t understand the value of the grieving process. They want us to ignore it, largely out of their own fears about the future-the deaths and losses we all face if we live long enough. Grief, though, is not just some bad habit that needs to be hidden from others’ eyes. It hears only the griever’s drummer. And for good reason.
Everything in life is crucial to our growth. That includes grief. If we try to blot out the pain with externals-with parties, shopping, food, or anything else that allows us to pretend that great and important things are not at work in our depths-the opportunity that grief represents is lost. That deep pain asks us to be quiet, to slow down for awhile, to go within and maybe spend time out in Nature.
Grief is a natural process with its own heart-based rhythm. It moves us into a slower gear. That’s because while we grieve, everything we experience flows first through the heart and then through the mind. Minds are not accustomed to a second-banana connection to the heart. They don’t quite know what to do. We may find ourselves forgetful while we grieve. We lose our keys. Misplace our shoes. We skip dinner-and remember it hours later. Our thoughts veer off into memories. We’re “not ourselves.” If we try to act normal while we don’t feel normal, life loses its flow. Fighting with grief is as effective as boxing with the wind.