Dec 31 / Paul

Befriending Grief

Is grief your enemy? Or is grief an upwelling of love, your soul blossoming in sorrow? Most of us, when we meet a stranger, will automatically, immediately begin treating him as a friend or as a threat. Tiny clues can tip this decision one way or the other: a smile, a scowl, body posture, tone of voice.

Is grief your friend or your enemy?

Grief makes a bad first impression – greeting us, on first acquaintance, with sorrow, heartache, confusion and fear; it’s natural for us to decide, right off, that grief is a threat, an enemy, and the sooner we escape it, the better.

But when you see that grief is an expression of your love for the one you’ve lost, you can make the choice to welcome grief as your friend. By allowing it to come into your life, you can also allow it to go when it has run its course.


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  1. Lynn / Feb 22 2010

    I read for the first time today something I wrote a few weeks after my husband died nearly 6 months ago, which was making a distinction between grief and the loneliness that comes when the person you’ve shared your life with (in my case, 30 years + 3 months – 5 days)… they are different. I think loneliness is the enemy, not grief. Loneliness drives one to despair, and from despair, one can end up doing things one never thought possible. I think we need to learn to discover grief and loneliness and recognize the two for their differences… they are not the same.

  2. Paul / Feb 22 2010

    Thank you, Lynn. I’m going to add loneliness to the other emotions that I’ve noticed overlaid on grief: fear, regret, blame and anger. As you’ve pointed out with anger, these reactions to loss need to be seen for what they are, not the same as grief. When we separate grief from these other reactions, we are ready to experience grief as love.

  3. Martha Vayhinger / Mar 14 2010

    Hello, Paul! I was so surprised to find the copy of your book on my shelf here at Riderwood, and I so appreciated your sharing your story so other people could be comforted by your experience and your words. You know so well that grief is a part of living, whether it is death or loss of another kind. I have always felt that when a story like yours is shared that it makes it safe for others to share. As you well know, grief comes in different forms and in your book it became clear that feelings of grief can surface at any time and often unexpectedly. Here at Riderwood [a retirement community] there is so much need to help people with grief, and your presence here was a gift to our community.
    I hope that our paths will cross again. In peace and light, Martha Vayhinger.

  4. Denis Ledoux / Feb 12 2011

    I’ve long felt that I have a gift for relationship and I function well in relationship. After the death of my wife of 31 years, it was hard to find myself with no one to help or serve in order to make life more pleasant for her. Reading your book made me realize what a big loss that was to me. Now there was only me. One day about 2 or 3 months after her death, I was at a pot luck dinner and I noticed that a friend was not getting up to serve himself. He said he was too tired to get up just then. I asked him what he wanted and said I would bring it. He said that was too much to ask of me. I replied that he had not asked it of me but that I had offered it. I remember feeling bereft of the opportunity to be of service in my daily life. It was something that went with my wife”s death. Your book made me realize that I am grieving that part of me too.

  5. Paul / Feb 14 2011

    Many of us don’t reflect on how much of what we know about ourselves arises from our relationships with others, especially with those we love most. When we lose this reflection of ourselves, and the opportunites to put our values into action, we grieve for the part of our identity that we’ve lost.

    In that empty space left by our loss, though, is an opportunity to create, intentionally, who we know ourselves to be. We create this both in our inward reflection on what matters to us, and out in the world by taking action on our values.

    What I hear in your story is that when you took a simple action of serving a friend, you recognized a vital part of yourself that has been unexpressed since your wife died. It was painful to be reminded of that loss of yourself; and I hope you recognize that it’s still available to you to be that person you are grieving for. I hope you’ll find the opportunites for service that will manifest your best self in the world.

    Thank you, Denis, for sharing your experience with us.

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