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Playing With Grief–Huh?!

April 4, 2014

Do you tend to reserve grieving for the big things? For instance, do you allow yourself to grieve things like death, loss of a limb, serious illness, divorce, loss of a job?

What about when your best friend disappoints you or you don’t perform up to your own standards? Do you laugh it off and sweep it under the rug without acknowledging the feelings of hurt or disappointment?

I’m wondering if waiting to learn how to grieve til you’re gob-smacked with a big, horrible loss is the best way to go?

Just as important as grieving the big stuff may be acknowledging the loss of all the fantasies – the fantasy of the perfect parents or siblings, the perfect partner, the perfect children, the perfect job, the perfect answer to life’s unanswerable questions, the perfect life, the perfect self. Hell, I think we have to grieve the loss of our favorite ‘perfect’ pen. (Just kidding…sort of?)

Part of the grieving process is learning to identify what we want and need. Because if we’re not clear about what we want, how can we tell if we have it or not, or if we’ve lost it?

Take a moment to think about any losses you’ve experienced that aren’t momentous–losses that maybe no one else would notice. And gently ask yourself if there’s anything you need to say or feel or do about them. I’m still occasionally grieving the loss of a Borghese parfum they discontinued approximately 20 years ago! Doesn’t generate tears, but I really do acknowledge my disappointment every time it shows up!

Grieving isn’t always a lengthy, time-consuming exercise. It can be as simple as acknowledging a loss without minimizing the feelings that accompany it.

If you can’t think of any losses that seem important enough to consider, here’s an idea to play with.

1. Make a list of what is/isn’t working in your life.  What you’re happy about and what you’re not happy about.

2. Before you shoot yourself in the head because there may be more than a few things that aren’t exactly as you want them to be, consider putting a mark next to the ones that really, really matter to you. (To you, not to society or your parents or your partner or your third grade teacher.)

3. Once you’ve marked the items that matter, separate them into two categories:  one group holds the things that you are willing to take a step toward changing or getting, and the other represents the things that you will need to acknowledge and accept as a loss.

4.  Accepting the loss might involve writing about it, talking with a trusted friend about it, meditating or praying about it, or even having a little ceremony to let it go.

5.  And finally, work with the list of things that you don’t see as permanent losses.  Next to each item write down one small step that you’re willing to take either now or at some time in the future in the direction of getting what you want.

We talk a lot about mindfulness—meeting the present moment with openness, willingness and curiosity. I suspect that’s also how we can gently meet our grief.


  1. Mary Lou Fischer says:

    This is terrific, Robyn.
    I’ve actually been thinking of coming to see you.

    I lost my sister in January…held her hand as she died. I’ve been having a very difficult time with the grief & noticed that I seem to be grieving EVERYTHING!!! 🙂 The other day I was just thinking that I need to figure out what it is I’m truly upset about instead of lumping everything into one sad glob.

    This is really helpful. (I still may come in for a tune-up tho!)

    • Robyn says:

      I’m glad it helped. I’m so sorry about your sister…can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. At the same time I’m suspecting that with her was exactly where you wanted to be. Any time you want a tune-up, holler!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Robyn, as always, amazingly insightful. I can’t seem to shake the point you made about allowing ourselves to grieve even the small things, in order to become more aware of the things that really matter to us. Thank you!

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks Jen. Life is so short, and I can easily forget that when I’m caught up in the day-to-day of living–so it was a reminder to myself as well!

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