In Relationship With Grief

I am in relationship with Grief. There are days we get along well. Grief offers me reminders of the past. I am appreciative. Grateful. I realize how far I have come on my journey. We even share a laugh and I go about my day. And Grief? Well, I’m not sure what Grief does the rest of the day. Probably settles into my belly for a nice nap.

Grief has always been a part of me. Not that I recognized it. And I certainly didn’t personify “it.” (I haven’t given Grief a gender…yet.) This is new. This idea of befriending Grief has come after once again diving back into the “deep well of grief” as David Whyte says and discovering more coins. I’ve also been reading Francis Weller’s The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Rituals for Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, along with other articles and books. These different sources of wisdom dwell in my thoughts, my dreams, my poetry as I weave the threads together into a deeper understanding.

Weller says “Another facet of our aversion to grief is fear. Hundreds of times in my practice as a therapist, I have heard how fearful people are dropping into the well of grief. The most frequent comment is "If if go there, I will never return.” What I found myself saying one day was rather surprising. “If you don’t go there, you’ll never return.”…If we are to return to the richly textured life of soul…we must pass through the intense region of grief and sorrow. This requires we, once again, put faith in grief. This requires we give grief a bottom, a foundation upon which to come to rest." (p107)

There’s that well of grief again. Back down into the belly…or perhaps womb is a more fitting. For it is in the womb that something is nurtured and out of the womb comes life. When I risk diving into the well of grief, the womb that is holding Grief safely until I am ready to look at the next part of my past, I am going to a welcoming space, not a fearful place. In the warmth of the womb, Grief can reveal a loss I have been unable to accept or reflect on. Or bring out something old that needs revisiting, like the death of my father when I was twenty-six or when my best friend moved in second grade.

This dive can be disconcerting. Some days it is cramped with loss and I say “enough” and head back to the surface with only a few drops of relief. Those days Grief and I are not in a comfortable relationship and I get angry and frustrated and slam the door saying I am done going down there. I am done with you.

But it doesn’t last.  For I have found Grief to be a kind companion. Patient. Not pushy or abusive, but willing to walk alongside me at my pace through sorrow and suffering. Grief wants me to be in relationship with Joy, Laughter and Whimsy. Wants me to be peaceful, grateful, hopeful and fully engaged in life. Wants me to live authentically.

I have other reflections stirring on this budding relationship. Maybe I need to write Grief a love letter. Or send a thank you card. I’m still sorting these new feelings out.

What about you? How would you describe your relationship with Grief? If you were to have a conversation with your Grief, how do you imagine that would unfold? One way to do this is to write out the conversation on blank paper. Use your dominate hand to write a question for Grief and use your non-dominate hand to reply. Go back and forth for 20 minutes or until you feel the conversation is complete for that session. Be sure to extend gratitude to Grief at the end.)

I would love to hear about your relationship with Grief. Please respond in the comments section if you feel comfortable.


If we are to return to the richly textured life of soul…we must pass through the intense region of grief and sorrow.
— Frances Weller
Dad and I, 12/80, College Graduation.

Dad and I, 12/80, College Graduation.

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath 

the still surface on the well of grief

turning down to its black water 

to the place that we can not breathe

will never know 

the source from which we drink 

the secret water cold and clear

nor find in the darkness 

the small gold coins 

thrown by those who wished for something
— David Whyte

Upcoming Workshop:
Honoring Grief During the Holidays.
Saturday, December 9th, 1-5pm. SW Portland. Register early. Space limited to 12 participants.