One of the most difficult topics to discuss in our culture is the "G" word--grief. We are so inadequately prepared to deal with this emotion and given too little time. Grief is like a roller coaster. We may feel better for several days only to take a dive down again at the most unexpected moments. It is not neat. It doesn't fit inside our boxes very well. Although the saying goes "time heals," we can carry grief for many years deep in our hearts.
Grief can certainly arise as a result of death of a loved or not-so-loved one, but grief can also be secondary to many other losses as well. Other causes of grief include loss of trust, loss of relationship/divorce, moving, loss of a job, loss of wealth, loss of a beloved pet, loss of mobility, diagnosis of a disease and this list goes on and on.
Last Tuesday, I began a 12 week course about grief. In my life, all four of my grandparents, many friends, several patients and beloved pets have died. However, the grief that I was not expecting to emerge reached far back into my childhood. By the time I was 16, I had lived in nine different places. Moving so often, I changed schools and left best friends. That old grief welled up deeply after my first class this past Tuesday. That is the oldest grief I remember and I'm amazed by how profoundly it still affects me today, over 20 years later. This is not a grief that has just simply healed with time. At the time, I used the tools that I had as a child to patch that grief, but I am now ready to gently and compassionately revisit this grief with more effective techniques that I am learning as an adult.
Why does this matter? Why even bother processing old grief? Many emerging scientific studies are showing that unresolved grief is correlated with many chronic diseases. I am taking a grief course for my health and so I can be a better doctor for the people for whom I care. It is my hope that working through this old grief, I will have stronger, healthier and more deeply authentic relationships in my life.