Grief. Never has a five letter word born such broad definition, because no two people define or express grief in the same way. At some point in life we all have to bear grief, some more than others. And we all deal with grief very personally. I have several acquaintances who’ve lost partners and I marvel at the disparity with which each copes.

One woman lost her husband of many years to a lingering illness. When he finally passed she expressed little outward grief. Perhaps she mourned over the length of his illness and was prepared for the end. Or maybe she grieves deeply, privately. She may also just be a very pragmatic person who simply dealt with an inevitable life event in a rational way.

Among my friends several have lost someone close to them over the past few years and I feel compelled to reach out. Sometimes I wonder if that’s my calling because quite inadvertently I happen to be the one nearby for them to lean on. (Surely that’s not coincidence) Some need only words of support, others, an emotional shoulder, and the duration of need varies. Fortunately most survive; they regain their strength, and while life will never be quite the same, they go on, because they have to, if not for themselves, than for others.

Grief takes its’ toll not just on the immediate loved ones, but also on those who provide support, so how quickly they recover from their loss has a ripple effect. Some people never recover from the loss of a loved one despite the efforts of their support system. Professional help is necessary but not always effective because there are those who simply cannot go on and it’s in these situations that supporters have to step back. You simply cannot heal someone who doesn’t want to be healed. A big part of helping another find their way is learning when to let them go it alone, and it’s only then that you realize just how much of yourself you invested in their healing.

I’d like to think I’d be the pragmatic type because death is a part of life, but of course we never know how we’ll react until faced with the reality. I do know that grief is a process, and the process may be different for each of us, but it is still very necessary. No one escapes grief. It is a natural part of human life and understanding that it is a cycle of life helps with the healing. Grief can consume you or heal you, and the outcome you select is very much choice.