Another Look: A Breviary on Grief and Mourning

Note from CM: It is a week of mourning around here. This is another piece from last year, re-posted today to remind us of some of the basics about what loss does to us and where we go from here.

• • •

A Breviary on Grief and Mourning

What we grieve, we must mourn.

Grief is one’s complex inner response to loss.

Mourning consists of the outward expressions by which we acknowledge our grief and work through it until it becomes more and more integrated into our lives.

In addition, in the aftermath of loss we need to recuperate, heal, and embrace change.

We never stop grieving. Never.

However, our losses can become part of our lives in such a way that we can carry them with us through practices of mourning (lamenting our loss) and recovery (healing and changing) so that we can move forward onto a “new normal” path. We can forge a renewed identity, find more peace in the midst of life’s uncertainties, and discover a broader and deeper sense of meaning than we ever thought possible.

My favorite illustration of this is losing a limb.

Let’s say that through some terrible accident I were to lose my arm. I will never “get over” that. I will forever be a person who has lost an arm, with lifelong consequences.

However, I can adapt to a new normal over time. For this to happen, I will have to work through a complex maze of feelings and thoughts, participate in various recuperation and rehabilitation activities, and learn new ways of doing things — perhaps with the assistance of a prosthetic. Through such recovery efforts, by which I come to accept the reality of my loss and adapt to the new situation, I can become able to face the world again as a “new” person — someone whose life has been dramatically altered.

This is no small task, and we do the bereaved no favor when we wittingly or unwittingly encourage them to “get over” or “move on” past their grief. That usually says more about our own discomfort with their loss, their new situation, and our inability to adapt than it does about them.

To lose a loved one is to be forever changed.

To lose a loved one is to enter a new and dramatically different part of our story. And where will it lead?

No more songs of innocence. Songs of experience must now be sung.

22 thoughts on “Another Look: A Breviary on Grief and Mourning

  1. I grieve what should have been, but never was. Being abused by my father and having most of my family support his denial of abuse has caused me to lose family members and relationships that should have been. It has caused me to lose innocence and trust that should have been part of my family of origin. But those things were not there. So I grieve the loss of those relationships. Some of the people are still living, but the relationships are dead.


  2. “Cast your eyes on the ocean,
    Cast your soul to the sea;
    When the dark night seems endless,
    Please remember me, …”


  3. so beautiful, this

    It’s not the first time we’ve seen you post an orthodox Christian hymn from Eastern Christianity, Senecagriggs; and I find that is part of the possibilities that exist when the Holy Spirit ‘goes where He will’ among the faithful . . . that a person from a conservative evangelical background in the Western Christian tradition can find within his soul a place for the mystical beauty of the Orthodox hymns, many of which come down from the oldest of Christian liturgies.

    Thanks for sharing that hymn, Senecagriggs


  4. A prayer from Father Benedict Groeschel for a suicide victim, “For the one who is gone, defeated by this life:

    “There is no one I can come to but You — Crucified One. Your prayer of dereliction, which always puzzled me before, now is the only thing with any meaning at all.

    “I put my dear one whose body is destroyed into Your hands. Reach down from the Cross and embrace this wounded and broken soul. You descended into hell. Find our friend on the edge and rescue the one who has gone from us…

    “We have no place to go in the world, in the whole universe but here to You., to Your Cross — it is our only hope. Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend this spirit. Amen.”


  5. If I were there, I’d see you had some good hot food and a big hug, Susan. Your friend is fortunate to have you to care for her now in her grief.


  6. No more songs of innocence. Songs of experience must now be sung.

    To William Blake, neither Songs of Innocence or Songs of Experience in their polarity achieved the state of Vision necessary to reconcile their opposites. The Visionary state was one in which the “Two Contrary States of the Human Soul” would be transcended and reconciled, and for Blake this was by way of the Visionary art and mythology of his Prophetic Books. Neither Innocence nor Experience alone are adequate to the task of Vision.


  7. I feel cold and alone.

    I know what that feels like, Susan. Part of me is always there. If empathetic and compassionate thoughts help, know that you are being surrounded by them right now.


  8. It may be so, but if it is, I hope that I’m given the option for everlasting, eternal oblivion; so far, I’ve found that the game is not worth the candle.


  9. This past December our school chose to do “Fiddler on the Roof” for the spring musical. After it was cast (my daughter as Hodel) our school board voted to close the school at the end of the term. My husband and all his wonderful coworkers would loose their jobs, our children would have to go elsewhere. Our close knit little community would be torn apart. We all lived it. There were tears with each rehearsal. They did a wonderful job. At the final performance closing with “Anatevka” we all lived it. We will continue to live it as we mark more last times and pledge to remember our family. “Next year in Jerusalem”

    The surrounding school districts are eager to pick up the funding that comes with our children and they are proud of their own schools. But “aren’t you happy you can come here” brings no comfort. One school said :”we are so sorry this has happened to you”. That helped. Yet the tears and the hugs flow.


  10. –> “My groans are so loud tonight as I weep for her and what I see as my not too far or maybe way off future tears.”

    Sometimes the grief/pain is so bad, all I can do is mutter, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over again. Sounds like that’s where you’re at.

    –> “Sorry about this Imonks, it is just how we get at low points of our life.”

    Your presence here is much appreciated, Susan, and I appreciate you sharing these difficult moments in your current journey.

    –> “Give me Grace.”



  11. > It is cancer season in the small group I lead…

    Unless you live in a hole, it’s ALWAYS cancer season. The numbers of people I know who’ve been hit with cancer over the past 5-8 years is depressing. Some have made it, some have not.

    I hate cancer.

    God, help us find a cure.


  12. Yesterday I went to my dear friend’s husband’s funeral.
    So sad.

    Today I picked my friend up and took her to our Dementia Support Group meeting.
    Her choice to be with us.
    Again so sad. I am feeling wrecked.
    Her grief is obvious. We support her and physically and are there for her.
    I see my future grief in hers today.

    My on going grief today I can not express in tears as I am there for her in her immediate need.

    My groans are so loud tonight as I weep for her and what I see as my not too far or maybe way off future tears.
    I saw John yesterday after the funeral and his response was nothing, just nothing.

    I rang my daughter tonight and she will visit at Easter. Tonight I just want real arms to hold me close and hug me till I break.
    I feel cold and alone.

    Sorry about this Imonks, it is just how we get at low points of our life.
    Give me Grace.


  13. > It is cancer season in the small group I lead

    Just passed through another of those seasons; returned from the funeral.



  14. “””The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.””” –JRR

    At this point in my life I question what Love means without Peril.

    I suspect I know the answer: Nothing.

    This raises some problems with the conventional vision of a|the post-eschaton world.


  15. It is cancer season in the small group I lead. One lady’s uncle has terminal cancer, is only getting palliative car and waiting to die. Another precious young lady’s dad has been diagnosed with prostrate cancer, caught early, with a good prognosis, but still Cancer.

    CM, I know that this is a hard time for you, but please know that your words and example here have helped me immeasurably I am sure that many others have been helped also. Thank you and know that you have our prayers and love.


  16. And if love requires suffering, or its possibility, does that mean suffering, or its possibility, will always exist? The idea of the realized Kingdom of God in the eschaton seems to imply that there will be an end to suffering, but not to love. If love without suffering is possible later, why is it not possible now? — why so much suffering now? Or is it the case that suffering is not a bug but a feature of love, and that as a result suffering will never end?


  17. “Songs of experience must now be sung.”

    someone once said that the depth and intensity of our grief is a measure of how much we loved the one we lost;
    so does that make ‘grief’ an altered form of ‘love’? If so, why so much pain?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: