Faces of Grief

Stan Goldberg, PhD
“I don’t know why I’m so sad. I never even knew her. I know it was more than just a tragedy. But to be this upset is embarrassing.”] S. Goldberg (2009) examiner.com, November

 

Although there are many approaches to grief counseling, most focus directly on the grief we experience over the death of a loved one. But what about the unexplainable, and often embarrassing grief experienced over the death of someone we never knew?

The pop star whose life was unexpectedly ended, the child brutally killed by a pedophile, or the massacre of 13 young men and woman on an army base. I’m not referring to the normal amount of sadness felt when an great tragedy occurs. But rather that very deep sense of loss that is usually reserved for the death of loved ones.

It may take the form of a fan’s hysterical crying at a memorial service or spontaneous emotional tributes at the site of a traffic accident, or the endless watching on television of the unfolding of something that is unspeakable.

In the deaths of others we see the vulnerability of our own aspirations and lives. Yes, a person may grieve the death of a pop star because he never reached this full potential, but in his death may see the disintegration of our own aspirations.

We grieve the death of a child by a pedophile, not only because it’s an indescribable tragedy, but as parents it means we realize our own children are also vulnerable. We grieve the loss of the soldiers not just because it was so senseless, but in their deaths we see that our own personal safety may be dependent upon the mental health of people we don’t know.

Grieving for loved ones is expected, natural and expression of the loss of connection with some who impacted our lives. Grieving for people we don’t know becomes instructive for what we fear the most.

The poet Rilke wrote that “our fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasures.”  The next time you feel an unexplainable sense of grief about the death of someone you didn’t know, give voice to that fear and you just might find your deepest treasure.

copyright 2009 Stan Goldberg, stangoldbergwriter.com

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