Words find their limits when it comes to the topic of grief. Grief is an emotion that is so purely felt that any attempt to precisely describe it is like catching a cloud in a jar. It’s also different for everyone which makes words so useless. It’s also different for the same person depending on the day or the hour.

The one thing that is true is that we are all capable of holding immense grief within us and there is nothing that makes us more human than bearing that pain. In our westernized culture we are especially susceptible to immense pain in grief because death in our culture is largely ignored until we’re face to face with it. Many, if not most, other cultures embrace death as a part of living and the reality of death is not shunned. In America we avoid, and fight death or any signs of it’s approaching (aging) with everything we’ve got. The truest exercise in futility.

Instead of accepting death and loss, we run from it and so when it does come, as it will for us all, we meet it as an enemy instead of as an old friend. The price for this avoidant mentality is anguish and anxiety in living, and profound confusion and shock in loss.

It’s also important to note that grief and loss are not relegated to only death and dying. Grief can be felt in the loss of a relationship, the loss of a part of yourself, the loss of a job – or city. Grieving can also be complicated, other emotions join the party like regret, guilt, anger, and even joy that may seem out of place and ‘not normal’.

But the standard of normal doesn’t apply to grief because how can you possibly standardized something so intensely personal to whoever is feeling it. We create it, we hold it, and we bear it. Grief is also for the living. A bit of a cruel joke, really.

Sometimes that grief becomes so overwhelming that we forget how to live in our loss. The well meaning but hurtful words of close friends wound us further. The path to go back to how things ‘were’ seems impossible. In part, because it is. Life after loss does not ‘go back’. It’s a moving forward, a managing, a carving out a new life with the loss still present, but finding its own spot in a growing heart that learns what it looks like to continue living.