Grief is a universal human emotion. If you live long enough, you will experience grief. 100% of the people you love will die. You, will die. Everyone who is born dies.The only question is, “Will you grieve them or will they grieve you?” Yet, as universal as grief is, grief is not understood by many of us. We avoid talking about grief. Many of us cruise through life willfully unaware that grief is waiting for us.
The odds are that if you are reading this, it’s because you are experiencing grief. It’s also likely it has caught you off-guard. When grief strikes, we feel like we’ve been buried and our lives are over.
Grief is deep, prolonged mental anguish, intense sorrow, emotional suffering, resulting from a loss- especially from the death of a loved one.
Grief manifests in many ways- Shock, disbelief, anger, rage, fear, sadness, uncontrollable crying, a feeling of emptiness, the belief life will never be the same again, the belief you will never be happy, a lack of concentration.
Life feels like it’s falling apart or has even come to a halt. We say things like “My world has ended.”
Grief is the most painful human emotion possible.
Who is this guy?
Who am I? And, why should you believe I know anything worth saying about grief? In life, we can learn in one of two ways. We can learn through study or we can learn through experience. Many people call themselves experts because they have studied a subject intellectually. But, there is no teacher like experience. When it comes to grief, I have learned both ways- experientially and through study.
My fifteen-year-old daughter, Shayna, passed in her sleep on June 24, 2015. 1,361 days ago today. With each passing day, I become one day more experienced with grief. When it comes to grief, I have been there. I am there.
When Shayna passed, I threw myself into studying grief because that’s what I do. I research things. I take them apart, analyze them, and put them back together. Early on my journey, I found that there is a podcast for any subject in the world. One of the first podcasts I discovered after Shayna’s passing was “We Don’t Die” by Sandra Champlain. It’s at www.wedontdieradio.com. Sandra recorded an audio about grief that I listened to a few weeks after Shayna passed. That audio helped me immensely. Then, my wife and I listened to it together. Sandra’s work, and the work of others, has inspired me.
My wife did more studying of grief than I did in terms of reading specifically about the subject of grief. Instead of studying grief, I poured myself into studies that would alleviate my grief, I studied anything that would bring me hope.
I didn’t set out to become an expert in grief. I was trying to figure out how to conquer it. I learned along the way that grief could not be conquered. But, it could be managed. I wouldn’t put it behind me. However, it would not destroy me. I developed my own “program”, if you will that helped me survive those days when I thought I would not survive. That program is a combination of exercise, meditation, study, and service to others. I want to share that with you.
Why do we grieve?
Why do we grieve? If loss is a part of life; if death is normal, why do we mourn?
I’ve heard grief described as being similar to withdrawal from drugs. We physically crave the person we are missing. Our brains have gotten used to their feel, their smell, everything about them. There is something their physical presence does for us that we become addicted to. When we lack that, it triggers a reaction, not unlike drug withdrawal. I believe there is something to this theory, but it doesn’t explain everything associated with grief.
We don’t grieve when people leave the house for a few hours, go on vacation, or even move for months or years at a time. We are just as separated from a loved one on a long trip as we are from a loved one separated by death. When they are on a trip, there is something about knowing they’re OK and they will return that gives us comfort. We know the separation is temporary and we take solace in that. We miss them, but we don’t grieve them. Grief happens when our mental image of what should be doesn’t line up with what is. Grief happens when we lose hope.
There are 360,000 births and 150,000 deaths every day in the world. Both birth and death are common occurrences. We know that every person who is born will eventually die. Yet, death seems to shock us. Birth is celebrated. We invite others to participate in our joy of bringing a life into the world. We fear death. We avoid the very thought of it, until it comes. And then, often, we grieve alone.
Death is a stranger
There was a time when people saw death all the time. Growing up on a farm, people saw the natural cycles of life and death in the farm animals. People used to die at home surrounded by family instead of in hospitals or nursing homes. After death, the body would be kept at home until the burial. Now, death is hidden away. Bodies are quickly whisked off and handled by professionals. Most of us have never seen a person die.
We think death is what happens to other families. When death comes to one of our loved ones, we are unprepared. After the passing of a loved one friends and families often avoid us as if death is contagious. Because we are so uncomfortable with death, what it is, and the fact that it’s inevitable, we grieve harder than we need to.
Praise for Grief 2 Growth:
“All of us will experience grief sooner or later. Even so, we’re caught unaware by grief when it visits us. In his book, Brian writes movingly and eloquently about his own grief at the passing of his beloved daughter and describes what helped him get back and stay on his feet. It’s filled with timeless wisdom (we’re not material beings) and practical tips (how to develop good healing habits) on dealing with profound grief. So much wisdom in so few pages. This is not just for those struggling with grief, but for all of us. For, as Brian reminds us, we must prepare ourselves for dealing with it when it comes. I plan to read this again. And again.”
“Brian Smith—in the beginning of your book you talk about the intellectual study of grief and the experience of grief. Your book is a beautiful juxtaposition of these two elements. You give us practical tips and physical symptoms to look out for as well as baring your soul and sharing your grief experience with Shayna’s transition.
This is a powerful tool for healing. Thank you for doing the work required to be able to write such an important book I am buying several copies to share with my loved ones who are grieving. I know you have already helped so many people and I believe this book has the potential to help so many more. This book is concise, from the heart and practical at the same time.
I recently heard Liz Gilbert say “the honor in grief is loving someone so much that their departure breakers you”. You have honored your grief and your love for Shayna by sharing this with all of us.”
“As a shining light parent who is a member of Helping Parents Heal, Brian has been one of my role models thru this awful journey. I strongly recommend this book for those who are struggling with grief, especially those who are grieving the ‘loss’ of their child. In this well written book Brian has gone beyond the typical book for the grieving, and offered practical, easy, ways to help live with the grief.”
“I’m only 10 minutes into reading this book, and already I feel like I’m better equipped the next time a friend, colleague, or family member is dealing with grief.
The author is both a researcher and experiencer of grief, and does a good job of describing the experience, and how to cope with it, in a way that is EASY to read (important especially for those going through grief), and easy to understand.”
About the Author
Brian D. Smith became well acquainted with grief in 2015 after the sudden passing of his fifteen-year-old daughter Shayna. Brian first learned how to survive for the sake of his wife and surviving daughter. Brian studied in depth the nature of life and death and how to progress through grief. Currently, Brian does volunteer work with organizations dedicated to helping parents heal from the passing of a child. Brian also operates a life coaching and small business consulting practice.