Grief is Grief, No Matter How Small

Your pain from a grief experience is similar no matter what the cause. I learned this firsthand. Grief and sorrow can overwhelm your heart from different causes, and yet entirely unrelated events incite the same painful internal feelings. I hope my short story encourages you to have compassion on yourself and others if a loss triggers what seems like unwarranted sorrow in you when the triggering event was small you thought.

Local news stations report tragic situations every day; A house burns down and leaves a family in grief; a son is killed at war; an auto accident leaves someone paralyzed for life. Grief is truly a part of life, not an experience which is surprisingly foreign. It affects each one of us at some time. Anytime something or someone we are attached to is snatched away, anytime we have a disappointment or lose a loved one, we feel grief. Grief & Loss go together.

I have learned from my own personal experience the nuances of grief feelings which you can’t get from a book or lecture alone.

An adversity does not have to be grossly tragic in the eyes of others to create immense pain. Your emotional response depends upon your life situation at the moment. If you’ve had a tragic loss that is not yet healed, it doesn’t take much to throw you into feeling grief again. The more grief you endure which has not been healed, the easier it can be to be thrust back into the raw state of your suffering when a new tragedy strikes.

My heart was very tender after my wife was killed in a head-on car wreck the day after we were married, and I went through immense spouse-grief. About two years later I had a little puppy named Apollo. He was a small German shepherd and I grew deeply attached to him. I lived on a busy street near Eugene, Oregon. One Sunday afternoon a friend stopped by and I was out. Apollo slipped out the door when my friend peeked in, and the puppy began to follow the friend. He wandered onto the road, was run over, and killed. Needless to say, I went though pet-loss grief.

I was devastated. I was grieving a dog, but the pain in my mid-section was similar to what I had felt when Nancy was killed. I cried over the loss of Apollo. In my mind it seemed ridiculous. What I learned in later reflection and healing was that my grief over the little dog was igniting the latent grief I still had over the death of my bride.

Our feelings of grief depend upon who we are at the moment. What other grief and sorrow still needs some work for healing? What subtle memories of the past erupt again? These are signals that there may be residual grief, unhealed, which complicates our current pain, regardless of cause.

I am hoping this insight gives you the chance to be compassionate with yourself when the smallest thing can trigger extreme sad feelings. When someone at work or a friend announces to you, “Just get over it,” you know enough to back away and not just stuff your feeling.. I also hope it inspires you to accelerate your healing process.

Abating grief is important. If you don’t, the next situation will pile heavier pain upon the burden you already carry. In my book, At Least We Were Married, which recounts the story of my young bride’s death and my pain in losing her, I go into more detail about how I got through my suffering and grief pain, which is more than I can in this small space. What I can tell you is that IT IS POSSIBLE to heal your grief.