Good Grief

I don’t do grief well. It feels messy, out of control and weak. Grief means suffering, distress and sorrow. Who needs that? It is not that I have nothing to grieve over it is just that to go there means I would have to admit that I am hurt, I am disappointed, I am afraid, I am betrayed, I am…

Recently I was invited to visit a place of grief brought on by significant disappointment. Disappointment that meant loss of fellowship, impact and work I had, literally, poured my life into. I was left feeling stuck and wondering what does my future hold? To allow my heart to engage my grief meant I would have to admit, I was afraid. I was not wiling to do that because I was alone as well. What was I to do with myself?

As I have thought about this I realize that I’ve asked this question over and over again throughout my life. As a child I learned very quickly that there was no one who was willing to sit with me in my sadness…to grieve my heartbreak, betrayals and frustrations born out of fear. I was alone then, too with my dad’s words, “This too will pass” echoing in my heart.

Those words came out loud and clear to me as a second grader getting my tonsils and adenoids out. My recovery was long and painful. I missed over a week of school and my throat was so sore I could not talk. I was given a little green bell to ring when I needed something. I hated that bell because it meant I was alone to figure out my needs. No one was there to anticipate me.

One day I threw that bell across the room and it rebounded off the bookshelf. Immediately I felt shame and guilty. When my mother came running in I didn’t even know what I wanted or why I threw it. I was simply mad and afraid.

Today I would use the word “rage” to describe what I felt. It was the beginning of the shut down of me as the “rage” began to build a wall around my heart. The “rage” turned into an addiction with an eating disorder to quench my desire for more. It gave me an excuse to lose hope.

The day I returned to school class pictures were taken. I didn’t know that and I showed up in a brown and gold flannel checked shirt complete with my brown orthopedic shoes. I was “peaked” another term for pale and pasty…I felt out of place…I wanted to disappear…I felt caught…I felt angry. No retakes were offered. I was stuck with the picture.


So here I am as an adult still feeling the “rage”. It is much more familiar to me than to grieve that which has been lost for me. I don’t throw bells any longer yet some days I can hear’’ the tinkling of that bell resonating in my heart. My “rage” is more sophisticated. I’ve learned that “rage” can be a state of being…it sours the soul and violates the heart.  And I am discovering the goodness of my grief as I have started to feel sorrow over what my recent disappointment meant in my heart. My grief is quiet, it is contemplative, it is gut wrenching, it is release, it is forgiving, it is freedom.

Yes, I believe there is more grief to be had by me. It cannot be avoided and I have a choice as to how I will engage it. It is not as scary as it used to be. There is some truth to my dad’s word, “This too shall pass”. I know I won’t get stuck there. Grief has opened the door of my heart. I have found hope for more. I believe you will too when you give good grief a chance.

Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.