I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.”
Emily Dickinson, #561
The English word “grief” is derived from the Old French verb “grever,” which means “to burden.” Implicit in the word is the idea that it is a weight to be borne; as Dickinson alluded to in her poem, “I measure every grief I meet.” And yet the notion of a weightiness to grief does not cover the morass of emotions that accompany this profound sense of loss. While Elizabeth Kubler Ross stamped order onto grief by describing the five stages a person moved through on the way to what we now call “closure,” my experiences of grief have been anything but orderly. I remember moving through all five stages in the space of an hour, not in the order she delineated, and then repeating the process in a different order a few hours later.
For someone who has experienced the death of a loved one, the rituals of mourning and the feelings of grief may be out of sync: Long after the funeral rites, a grieving person may still expect the loved one to come home. Or one may think that one is “over” the loss, only to experience a period of grieving that arrives out of the blue months or even years later. Grief is not a one-size-fits-all set of feelings.
By Lorraine Berry
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