Grief – a good hurt?

Grief is an emotion which can affect us all, often powerfully. Interestingly despite being painful to undergo, it usually feel “right”, in the same way that a muscle being massaged can produce a right-feeling pain. It would feel heartless not to feel grief for the loss of those close to us.

For Buddhists, there may be a feeling that our loss is a sign of impermanence, and being Buddhists, impermanence ought to be no surprise. Some mistaken attitudes to Buddhism go further and expect that meditation and a philosophical approach will provide “immunity to emotions”. That’s wanting “equanimity” to mean protection from pain.

baby, bathwater

Dukkha is the layer of suffering we add to life’s experiences by grasping at our conceptual view, wanting to satisfy the self we hold so dear. Ending dukkha is not about becoming an unfeeling automaton. That would leave no place for compassion and love.

There is a danger with grief that its “rightness” as the response due to the loved one we’ve lost can mean that it would be wrong to allow our grief to subside. Personally I feel it’s best to allow grief to choose its own timing — without either trying to “be strong” and cut it short, or wallowing in it unhealthily and lengthening it.

flip the coin

A view which can help here is to see both sides of the coin. The painful feeling of grief only comes to us because we have the feeling of love towards that person. So to focus upon the pain of loss is one aspect, and this can be balanced by recognising the love – which has not been cut short by the loss. It has in fact been accentuated, brought to the fore, by the loss. To feel no grief would be to expose that we’d not dared to love.

So while mourning our loss, we might also, perhaps later, realise this as revealing our love – and more, our potential to love. It reveals love as our basic nature, destined to be hurt by loss. What is not to celebrate in discovering in such a powerful experiential way that our basic underlying nature is love?

reflection on grief from Buddhist view

3 thoughts on “Grief – a good hurt?

  1. Thanks Five. I thought the reminder that equanimity is not apathy or indifference was particularly useful. It’s so easy to fall into that trap. Thus, cycling between wanting things, not wanting things, and pretending they don’t exist! In extreme cases such emotional immunity would be regarded as a sign of quite severe personality disorders.

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  2. So beautiful – I love the sentiment of the last sentence in particular. Reminds me (in a surprising way) of some wisdom in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov – about how weeping can turn into a quiet, tender joy with time.

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  3. Thanks Brad, yes “poignant” is a word I sometimes use for that sweet sorrow that we don’t want to dismiss. Glad you like the piece, are you “following” the site to know when I post something? And please do tell others who might like it, your recommendation is the best way to increase the reach of my pieces.

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