The Hidden Gift of Grief
by Erica D. Fulton (MA-Counseling, MDiv., LPC-Intern, Chemical Dependency Counselor)
Even though the gift of sadness sounds like an oxymoron, the acceptance of sadness can be a very powerful healing agent during the journey of grief. Acceptance of sadness allows us to embrace the gift of grief. Often, grief is seen as the opposite of faith or an emotion to be suppressed. All occasions can bring grief, even the happy ones. Having a baby, getting married, becoming a mother for the first time, graduations, promotions, and birthdays are examples of occasions that can bring grief because losses accompany them. A feeling of sadness over a celebratory event may seem abnormal to some; however, grief can be a gift that allows us to be human and vulnerable.”
In our society, the term vulnerable denotes weakness, but I would offer a way to reframe vulnerability as a source of strength. Because grief makes us vulnerable in some ways, the natural instinct could be to hide it or explain it away as something else. Neither of those alternatives is healthy during the grief process. Grief makes us vulnerable. Grief can make us feel stripped of any power, yet–while we are in that place—not all our power is lost. We can gain strength in a place of vulnerability because vulnerability can leave room for self-reflection, and self-reflection is vital for growth.
Grief can change us for better or worse depending upon how we respond to it. How we as human beings respond to grief can be influenced by so any different factors. Our family of origin, which is the family in which we grew up, gave us lessons about responding to grief. Even our own faith traditions can either help us process our grief during the journey or have the opposite effect. Grief makes each of us a different person, but our evolution can be compared to a flower blossoming if we embrace the journey. Embracing the pain, the uncertainty, the moments of loneliness, the laughter, the anger, and so on are all events that hold the power to transform and reveal the hidden gift of grief.
Grief can be an emotional rollercoaster: It comes in waves and it never tells us when it is coming. The smell of a person’s perfume, a favorite food, certain places, even certain phrases are the causes of the waves. All these loss reminders have an impact on the journey, and they change us. I will use an example from my own journey of loss. The first year that my husband died, I could not listen to Strawberry Wine without bawling my eyes out. That song initially reminded me of the anguish of the loss. As I embraced that pain, though, I began to be able to unwrap this gift called grief. The song eventually took on new meaning as our marriage transitioned to a precious memory and treasure.
The gift of grief lies somewhere between the pain and the rebirthing that can occur in our souls. Grief changed me, and now I am much better for it. I will go back to that word “vulnerability” because grief can make us examine our reactions. Grief can make us feel exposed; nonetheless, I want to invite you to unwrap the gift. In unwrapping the gift of grief, you can discover the meaning of the journey for you, and that can be a precious gift. Courage is what is required to open up and unwrap the gift. As painful as it initially is, the discovery is priceless. The pearls to be found in the pain of grief can transform us for a lifetime.
The next time you feel the need to suppress grief, open the box, and embrace all parts of the journey. Find someone who will sit with you without judgement while you open your gift and then celebrate that gift with you. Find someone who will not try to predict what you will discover, but will simply be your companion as you unwrap each part of the gift. Find that person who will listen with an open heart as well as ears.
I leave you with a question. What will you do with your gift? What will you do with your pain? How can that gift influence you and those around you for the better?