Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What To Do With Grief?

2 Questions About Grief: To Pursue it, or Not? To Evaluate it, or Not? 

It is not enough to sit with grief. One needs to contemplate grief, investigate it, acknowledge it fully, give it a face or several ones if necessary. Grief is like a crying child that won't stop until his mother picks him up and comforts him. 'Tell me, my child, what happened?' Grief is like that. 

Grief has been a frequent visitor lately, and today  I decided to do something about it. I took a pen and a piece of paper, and I started writing down all that's been causing me grief. Six situations altogether, some personal, some universal. Each one of them, a clear loss, compounded by lack of acceptance and unrealistic expectations on my part. Each one, an opportunity to further explore suffering, and life's inherent unsatisfactoriness, and the impermanence of all things, including the most dear ones. Each one, a new poke into the heart, allowing for more love to rush in. Each one, another sobering reminder that there is no control to be had. Going down the list, I could feel grief loosen its grip. It's amazing how little it takes sometimes, to ease one's suffering. 
"'Grief is of two sorts, I tell you: to be pursued and not to be pursued.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? When one knows of a feeling of grief, 'As I pursue this grief, unskillful mental qualities increase, and skillful mental qualities decline,' that sort of grief is not to be pursued. When one knows of a feeling of grief, 'As I pursue this grief, unskillful mental qualities decline, and skillful mental qualities increase,' that sort of grief is to be pursued. And this sort of grief may be accompanied by directed thought & evaluation or free of directed thought and evaluation. Of the two, the latter is the more refined. 'Grief is of two sorts, I tell you: to be pursued & not to be pursued.'
~ Sakka Panha Sutta: Thanissaro Bikkhu' s translation ~ 
Today, I chose to pursue the mountain of grief welling up within. It seemed wise to deconstruct it, all six pieces of it, and to examine each one. Not the most refined way, but the one that worked for where I am at right now.  

How do you live with grief? What has it taught you?


  1. Well said! Grief demands we follow it. It is a most trustworthy companion when we stop trying to evaluate it and just surrender to it's infinite wisdom. Of course it never feels that gentle or wise when we're caught up in it, when it feels more like a battering ram. Who wouldn't want to run from that? Sometimes we really do need to turn away for a bit, but it always finds us again. It takes courage to grieve but grief is what leads us into true healing in the end, and the only way to get there is to follow its lead.

  2. Thank you Susan. Life is a constant grieving process, isn't it. As long as we love in our own very fallible human ways, we will grieve :) Big losses, small losses . . .