Seeing the Purpose in Grief
This one word can elicit so many reactions that it’s a bit risky to even mention it.
Some ignore it. Others shrink back at it. Still others can’t help getting emotional over the thought of it.
It can conjure up fear, heartbreak, loss. Thoughts that many of us push aside and detest because of the sorrow that we associate with this one word.
What if I told you that there is a purpose behind this word that many people overlook?
I believe there are two defining moments of grief. Many of us get hung up on the first and never make it to the second. This post will attempt to identify those moments of heartbreak and loss that so many of us are familiar with. But more importantly, it will show that healing is possible, not only for you, but also for those around you, and it often comes where we least expect it.
What is grief?
In order to understand the purpose behind grief, we must first identify what it is. A lot of us have experienced it in one way or another. A broken promise. The loss of a loved one. A failed relationship.
The emotional response to this word is unpredictable because the world is unpredictable. This is one of the reasons grief is so hard to talk about, because it looks so different for different people.
Grief is a language – none of us want to become fluent in it but many of us do.
It’s the language of heartbreak. And though many of us would rather act like we don’t know it, we do. And it is a pivotal part of who we are. But simply knowing the language means nothing if we’re not willing to speak it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Why does grief matter?
Don’t get me wrong. Not all grief is the same. Your pain matters. Your grief is heartbreaking and in a perfect world it wouldn’t be part of you.
But it is. And you have to understand the significance of this idea to the rest of your life.
Understanding our own grief is important for several reasons. First, the ability to understand and talk through our sorrow brings so much relief to hopeless situations. The second is that it helps us realize that we are not alone. Grief is all too common to the people around us, and fully understanding it allows us to better connect with the world.
How do we make the most out of grief?
So we’ve identified our grief and understand why it matters, now what?
My friend Shawn recently reminded me of the importance of grief when he told me about his own journey through heartbreak.
At a young age Shawn watched his dad, a physically fit, strong man, get sicker and sicker, and eventually die from an incurable disease. It profoundly impacted his view of the world and brought tremendous heartbreak at a young age. He claimed that this moment affected every single part of his life up until the present day.
This moment very clearly marked the starting point of his grief, but he didn’t let it define the end.
Years later, Shawn found joy in a place he would have never expected. While in between jobs, he decided to volunteer at a hospice facility. It was here that he was able to talk to terminally ill patients, many of whom only had days to live, some passing away while he was with them. Each week he would offer to pray for people who were at the most vulnerable state possible. It was during these moments that Shawn found a sense of true awakening and even joy.
Because of his grief, Shawn was able to work in a place that very few people would choose to volunteer. But what he found was not only the ability to walk with people through immense pain but a sense of purpose in his role.
For Shawn, this brought a profound revelation that I believe is true for everyone. True healing is found when we can return to the place where sorrow is born and not think about ourselves.
Now back to the language of grief.
Shawn was fluent in this heartbreak language. But instead of ignoring it, he used his experience with grief to help others find dignity in their own sorrow.
As I mentioned before, there are two pivotal moments when it comes to grief. The first is where many people get stuck. This is when we are faced with heartbreak.
The second moment of grief is where our legacy begins. This is when we look past our own struggles and use our experiences to help other people. At this moment something incredible happens. We’re able to see healing in the lives of others, but we also experience tremendous healing as well.
Legacy is born more out of weakness than strength. Once we fully embrace our own brokenness and aren’t afraid to help the people around us who have the same heartbreak, we will fully understand the purpose behind our grief.
For more on this topic, listen to the Created for Experience podcast – Becoming a Wounded Healer with Shawn Askinosie.