According to Merriam-Webster dictionary online, Grief is either (a.) a deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement or (b.) a cause of such suffering. Every time I read that I sit in wonder as to who might have written such a profound and enlightening definition. Of course, I am not using a medical dictionary, nor am I referencing an encyclopedia or Wikipedia for that matter.
I sometimes wonder, too, how words become words. A few are easily determined. An airplane is a device that flies in the air, and an automobile is a devise that makes us mobile in an automatic sort of way. But, how did a cup become cup, or a tree become tree, and who chose the word grief to describe the whirlwind of intense emotional turmoil caused by the loss of someone or something of which I have formed and everlasting bond?
I doubt that it matters and in truth, I really do not want to know. As Shakespeare put it in Romeo and Juliet centuries ago “a rose would still be a rose by any other name” and I am sure that my grief would be just as perplexing, painful, and penetrating had they attached a different moniker to it.
So, why would I even bring this up?
Grief is but a word. It is short and decisive in its five letter spelling and one syllable enunciation. It even tries to be concise in its annotation, although that does not work out so well.
Grief, like love, is a conglomerate word and by that, I mean that it owns our emotions. With love we feel happy, gay, chipper, spry, excited, special, and etcetera. With Grief we feel numbness, shock, denial, frustration, bitterness, anger, pain, depression, sadness, fearful, futile, etcetera. Therefore, when we are in love, we will feel one host of emotions, and when we are in grief, we will feel a completely different set altogether.
Thus, we do not actually feel grief so much as we feel the emotions that are attached to the grief that we feel. Once, we learn to recognize and control those particular emotions we stand a much better chance of overcoming the grief we are experiencing.
Take fear for example. When my son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1986, I developed a great fear of losing a second of my four children. I became terrified that somehow they would get hit by a car, snatched by an evil child molester, accidentally killed in a car accident, or by whatever other means made the headlines in the years hence forth. It didn’t happen quite that way mind you, but it was a fear that became my obsession.
It was not until after I learned to control that fear that I or my remaining three children could actually begin to piece back together anything close to a new normal.
And fear is only one of the dozens of emotions we fail to control. Getting to know what emotion we are feeling and dealing with the consequences of that emotion takes effort. However, once we are willing to expend our energies on a particular emotion and not focus on our grief as a whole, we soon learn that there is a ray of sunshine left in our cloudy, hazy, pain filled days.