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Authentic Grief - Finding Meaning in Your After (Part 2)

Authentic Men's Group podcast

Release Date: 03/30/2024

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Authentic Men's Group podcast

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Authentic Grief: Finding Meaning In Your After

In this series of podcasts we want to address the topic of grief. Grief is something we all experience so we want to take an authentic look at this shared experience.

David Kessler wrote a book as a 6th stage of grieving titled Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.

We will be recording this podcast series as an overview to this book and be inviting you to a conversation about grief and how we can approach it through meaning. 

What is Grief?

Grief is the response to the loss of something deemed important or essential, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond or affection has been formed.

Part I – Every Loss Has Meaning

Chapter #1 What is Meaning?

The person who sees death as sacred has found a way to find meaning in it. Pg 14

Kessler references Victor Frankl’s cornerstone work, Man’s Search for Meaning. Kessler says that this book is a beacon for those who wonder how meaning can emerge from tragedy… Frankl suggested that when we are faced with a situation that is hopeless and unchangeable, “we are challenged then to change ourselves”. When we make the choice to change ourselves, we can turn tragedy into an occasion for growth.  Pg 14

The hope that we find in individual situations of grief leads to a life full of meaning. As we move from one grief to the next, one disappointment to the next all the while we are challenged to change.

Grief doesn’t get smaller over time, we get bigger. Pg 15

Pain, death, and loss never feel good, but they’re unavoidable in our lifetime. Yet the reality is posttraumatic growth happens more than posttraumatic stress. 15

Whenever you find it, meaning matters, and meaning heals. Pg15

 Vision from the great Avengers of Marvel Comics says “What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Chapter #2  Grief Must Be Witnessed

Each person’s grief is as unique as his or her fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining. Pg 29

Sitting shiva in Jewish culture seems to get the idea of grieving. For a time period of 3 to 7 days friends and family come to the mourners home and just sit with the people in grief. They say nothing unless they are spoken too. They are just present for the people that are grieving. This really is what grieving while having a witness is all about. Just being present. Just being seen.

But in our hyper-busy world, grief has been minimized and sanitized. Pg 30

  • we have diluted it because it’s scary to think about our own death. We like things we can control and we can control our busyness. We are very egocentric and attached to this life. We don't like not knowing exactly what awaits us in the next life. 

Grief should unite us. It is a universal experience. 30

The act of witnessing someone’s vulnerability can bring the person out of isolation if the witnessing is done without judgment. (Great theme statement for AMG) 31

Grief is what’s going on inside of us, while mourning is what we do on the outside. Pg31 

When people ask me how long they’re going to grieve I ask them, “How long is your love one going to be dead?” That’s how long. I don’t mean you will be in pain forever but you will never forget that person. 31

Loss can become more meaningful-and more bearable- when reflected and reflected accurately, in another’s eyes. 33

If the love is real, the grief is real pg. 34

Good interaction exercise – Have two people who are grieving stand facing each other and place their hands over their own hearts. Then look into each other’s eyes and say, “I witness your grief, I see your healing.” This kind of witnessing of another’s vulnerability can be very healing.  Pg 34

As I read this in the book I found myself tearing up when thinking of the grief I have experienced with others. My wife and I created A Grief Workshop for a large church that we served on staff with early in our careers. I wish that I would have known of this exercise when we were developing this workshop. How powerful to look into another’s eyes and say, “I witness your grief, I see your healing.” 

Something goes out of alignment when we try to avoid sadness and grief. 35

Life gives us pain. Our job is to experience it when it gets handed to us. Avoidance of loss has a cost. Having our pain seen and seeing the pain of others is a wonderful medicine for both body and soul. Pg 35

Life has peaks and valleys. It’s our responsibility to be present for both. Pg 35

“The time will come when memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes” That’s how it goes, pain first, meaning later. Pg 41

Having grief witnessed is about making loss real. Pg 42

When we feel it, we release it and we can be free.  Pg 44 

(My rephrasing– When we feel it, we can feel free to release it.)

Funerals and memorials are important. Something profound happens when others see and hear and acknowledge our grief. Pg 44

Two things bring us together: 1. Love 2. Suffering

Our children, just like us, need their pain witnessed, and a funeral is important to them. Pg 46

We are not meant to be islands of grief. The reality is that we heal as a tribe. Pg 47  

We see this often in men’s groups as men invite other men to connect with them by sharing their loss and grief openly. 

Chapter #3 The Meaning of Death

Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete. Victor Frankl. Pg. 49

The death shapes the grief.  Pg 49

I often teach that in grief, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Pg 51

Writing proves helpful in processing our grief  pg. 52  Journaling seems especially helpful in the processing of grief

Kessler says that writing proves helpful in three ways:

1. It examines causes and consequences. People who write use more words and phrases like: because, understand, realize, and work through.

When we examine writing we use our arm and our hand which is between our head, the center of our thoughts and our heart or out our gut (which in eastern thinking is the center of our emotions.) So by writing we are expressing our thoughts and our feelings. When we further examine this we also realize that writing engages the two hemispheres of our brain, the left hemisphere which is responsible for language and speech and the right hemisphere which plays a large part in the interpreting the visual information and spatial processing.

So in writing it is rather like lining up the crosshairs of a scope. We bring into alignment thoughts and feelings and language and processing.

2. There is a shift in perspective. From I and me to he and she and then to us 

It is important to remember there is not us and them. It is just us and we all experience grief.That which is most personal is most universal

3. Finding positive meaning in the traumatic experience. 

The way we view death reflects how we look at life. 

Death most often is thought of as a failure. Listen to how we speak of it: She succumbed to the illness, He lost the battle with cancer, and they didn’t make it.  Pg55

Apparently, no matter how great our life, we are destined to fail in the end. That doesn’t have to be our understanding of either life or death, however. Pg 56

Fear doesn’t stop death. Fear does stop life, however, but it doesn’t have to. If we allow ourselves to live with the consciousness of death, it will enrich us by making us understand how precious life is. Pg 56

But painful as it is, if we can view the approach of death as a reminder to us to value every moment, we can find new sources of meaning. Pg 58  

Death makes life valuable.  Pg 58

This life is a limited time offer. Pg 58

My mantra is “What’s meaningful?” I ask it all the time. Pg 60

What presence is worthy of my essence?

What’s meaningful can change our experience of imminent death… But for so many the last chapter of life is not the most interesting one, or the most important. We almost see it as a meaningless, “throwaway” part of life. Instead of using the precious time to complete relationships, to express our love, we allow the final chapter to become the series of medical issues to be conquered; a frantic search for a cure when one is no longer possible. Pg 62

Everything that lives must die. But while life has to end, love doesn’t. Pg. 64

The end of your loved one’s life is not the end of your relationships, since your love lives on. Pg 65

Instead of sitting in the room with their loved one staring at them when they are unconscious or sleeping try turning to face away from them so you can start practicing their presence without being able to rely on sight. Pg 65