What is the Purpose of Grief?

While doing an interactive presentation on the topic of “Grief and Spirituality” I was asked what I thought the purpose of grief was.  Delving deeper into this question I have a few ideas to share with you.

Even though grief is a natural response to a loss there are different perspectives to take into consideration with the question of the purpose of grief.

Some individuals may think there is no purpose to grief at all, while others may see growth and come to a different understanding of life, spirituality and perhaps themselves.

Another thought is, whose perspective are we looking from; the dying individual or the person who is grieving that individual’s death.  The dying individual may have a life full of regrets, feel they have lived a good life or something in between; either way with a pending ending of life what thoughts of loss go through their mind.

Death is not the only reason for grief.  Stop and think of the many ways grief affects your life from a young age on into your senior years. From a young age, is grief a way to toughen us up and help us to get through the life that is to come? 

From a purpose perspective, grief shows us who is empathetic, compassionate, sympathetic and caring enough to understand the experiences we are having and, in some cases, offer their support if needed.  The reverse is true also. Consider what type of person you are when grief is in the picture.

Grief expresses the loss, the missing and emptiness felt, but it is important to remember everyone grieves differently.  From a therapeutic perspective, Theresa Rando mentions in her book, “How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies” that grief serves the purpose of getting you to the point where you can live with the loss healthily, after having made the necessary changes to do so. (New York: Bantam Books, 1991, pp 18-19.)

Is or was there an evolutionary reason for grief such as keeping people together for survival?  Consider the teachable moments of grief, when children and those who have not experienced a death or other type of loss observe others who are grieving.

The purposes of grief may change when we change after a loss. Can we adapt to the new version of who we are?  Can we step into our inner power and find the strength to continue on with life? 

Most important, is the purpose of grief an opportunity to see what and who we really are?

Who are you deep inside? 

All my best,

Barbara Gillett Saunders   

Grief Counsellor/Thanatologist