Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Honoring grief as part of the human experience

Grief can be so unwelcome. Yet it comes to each of us at some point in our lives. How we understand grief, its purpose and its benefits, will shape how we feel it. In fact, we may find it possible to honor grief as a natural and healthy, albeit difficult, human experience. Here are a few reflections that may shift your perspective from one of dreading grief to that of honoring it for all that it is.

Death is part of life
Difficult experiences like loss cannot be erased. They can, however, be met with the respect of openness, warmth and goodwill. When we view death through the lens of compassion, we are better able to open to our suffering, the suffering of others, and to begin a journey of healing, consolidation and growth. Compassion moves us toward suffering and connecting with others. It greets the sometimes unbearable pain of death with the positivity of love, acceptance and concern.

Grief calls us to pause and reflect upon our lives
Grief invites us to assess who we are and to examine if we are living our lives in a way that provides meaning and happiness to us and those around us. Grieving is difficult work, but necessary if we want to live a life of conscious choice, abundance and value.

Connecting with nature is healing
Every day, nature provides us with bountiful opportunities to witness death and the growth that almost always follows. Winter's starkness gives birth to the lush and varied greens of spring, which beget the lovely flowers of summer, followed by a riot of blazing colors in autumn, ending in winter, a death of sorts, a time to absorb the lessons of the prior three seasons and then lay the foundation for the season to come.

Human beings are highly adaptable
Our capacity to deal with transition and loss is immense. In order to provide compassionate care to those we serve, we must routinely provide compassionate care to ourselves. If we do not, we will not be able to offer our patients and their families the soft demeanor and immense presence they deserve.

Compassion can ease suffering
How do you use compassion to ease your suffering? Who in your life reminds you to be kind to yourself when you have fallen short, so you can learn from your missteps? What activities do you engage in that tweak your imagination, strengthen your connections to others, bring delight, and extend your capabilities? Finding and living the answers to these questions will provide you the resources to respond patiently and masterfully when adversity knocks on your door.