Coping with Grief

So far, this year has offered me many opportunities to grieve. My beloved mentor and surrogate mother Mim Rosen died in March. And now our beautiful female akita Ginny passed away while we were on vacation for spring break. Mim was 87, had a long and extremely successful career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, professor, and director. Ginny was somewhere between 8-10 years old. None of this makes a bit of difference. A loss is a loss.

How can you avoid grief? Well, I guess you could try never loving anyone or anything. But if you are a human being, love will sneak up on you when you're not looking. Even when you think you have closed off or shut down, people will worm their way into your heart. Dogs have a way of doing this, too.

Apparently there are stages of grief, and none of these works. Denial is great, but it is only temporary. Like a band-aid on a boo-boo, eventually you have to rip it off. And then you have two kinds of pain. Anger is also wonderful while you are experiencing the heat of it. This is one of my favorites because it feels so powerful. I also enjoy blaming. But there usually comes a point where it becomes obvious: anger cannot heal grief. All the ranting and raving and cursing and throwing dishes only makes a big mess you then have to clean up. Acceptance sounds lovely, but this is just another load of crap. I've never been able to completely accept the death of a loved one. Underneath the scars, there still lies the original wound, just as raw as Day One.

So what can we do? If we can't avoid loving, and we can't avoid losing, there is no choice but to pull on our mucky boots and wade through this life with its dark, lurking pitfalls and grief traps. Once you slip into a hole, you simply have to struggle your way back to the surface. Luckily there are hands reaching down to you. Look up! Accept those friendly hands and let the people who love you help. They are offering hugs and kind words and sweet cards and prayers and wet kisses.

And the other thing we can do is treat ourselves gently and with great kindness. Let it be okay to cry and feel sad and not be the life of the party for awhile. Give yourself time and space to grieve in whatever way you need. (Although heavy drinking and binge-eating will just add more pain to your suffering.) Maybe you can write or paint or sing or express your emotions in your own medium. Cook yourself some nourishing meals that are comforting and sustaining. Root vegetables are great strengtheners. Go for long walks with your friends or by yourself. Look for the beauty in nature.

Again, none of these actions will cure grief. These are only steps we can take as we travel along, tripping and stumbling repeatedly. Remember: we all fall down. No one is exempt from grief. You and I are not alone.


  1. Liz, a poem to share that mirrors what you have written. Not sure who the author is, but the thoughts are beautiful:

    Grief never ends,
    But it changes.

    It’s a passage,
    Not a place to stay.

    The sense of loss
    Must give way
    If we are to value
    The life that was lived

    Grief is not a sign of weakness
    Nor lack of faith
    It is the price of love.


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