Having the courage to grieve

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.

Do we underestimate what it takes to face the many facets of grief head on?  When you hear of a tragedy on the news, sensationalism aside, it takes courage to look. Full disclosure—I shy away from movies or books or articles about grief because, good grief, it’s too difficult sometimes. But it is everywhere and it is part of life. I’ll tell you what makes looking at grief palatable: If it is expressed honestly, tastefully, and the words or images mirror your own feelings or teach you some truths that you may not know.

Here are some examples of courage in the face of difficulty, fear, or pain:

1) A man who recently looked at the image of the Road on my website and on the cover of my book (see above image) wrote this: "The image from your website is straight out of my soul. I sat with it, and continue sitting with it open in my browser, until a buffalo came slowly walking down the road towards me with her deep eyes peering through her thick fur. I recalled learning why buffalo hair grows that way, heavy in the front. When storms come blowing across the plains, buffalo turn and face the storm. They don’t turn and run but stand shoulder to shoulder and face the storm head on. Thank you for reminding me that wherever we are in our grief, we can still walk that Courage Road."

What a beautiful description of courage, and I love how nature teaches us.

2) The Light Between Oceans (2016). This is a film that was just as good as the book. It takes place after WWI in Australia. A lighthouse keeper and his wife suffer several miscarriages then find a baby in a boat and they take it as their own. Joy and more grief follows, as you can imagine.  It depicts the heartbreak of miscarriages—a loss that is profoundly minimized in our culture. We should watch this film if only to have more empathy for families who can be devastated by this particular loss. But there are more reasons to watch this beautiful story unfold. Have the courage to view it.

3) The following profound words were spoken by Lucy Kalanithi on a TEDMED Talk. She is the widow of a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at age 36. In Lucy's 2016 TEDMED Talk, she shares the perspective their family gained during Paul's difficult transition from doctor to patient.

“We learned to accept both joy and sadness at the same time, to uncover beauty and purpose both despite and because we are all born and we all die. Engaging in the full range of experience—living and dying, love and loss is what we get to do. Being human doesn’t happen despite suffering. It happens within it. When we approach suffering together, when we choose not to hide from it, our lives don’t diminish, they expand.”

Watch her talk in its entirety here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VacgRdKqjM

Posted on July 12, 2017 .