The Holiness of Grief


Grief is a thread that is woven through the tapestry of every life, every day.

I’m a highly sensitive, intensely feeling kind of woman. Some moments the void of loss swallows me whole.

Some moments it's small enough to step over and go about my day barely breaking my stride.

Some moments it’s like the salt in my salted caramel sauce, just enough to make the sweetness really amazing.

Everyday grief, the big and small losses in all of their realness and beauty, poignantly reminding us how deeply we love, how powerfully we feel.

When a child goes off to college… or starts kindergarten… when it’s time to pack up and transition into a new home… when we end a marriage…

when a dear friend from out of town gives that one final hug goodbye and heads for the airport… when we step away from our career pursuits to focus on our family or the other way around... when you finish reading that novel and crave just one more page, imagining what your favorite characters are up to next…

when we come to accept that our health is different than it was and there are some things we probably won't be doing anymore... when you glance in the mirror and realize, “I will never have the skin of a twenty-five year old again…”

Many of us fear grief or mask it or we make it mean something else and go into blame or fixing. We resist it. We run from it. We’re numb to it. We don’t want to talk about it.

One of the biggest grief’s I’ve lived through is the death of my first marriage. For years and years after I asked for a divorce I grieved in deep waves that often knocked me flat on my ass and had me questioning everything. And when I say years, I mean almost a decade.

It really wasn’t until about 8 years ago {7 years after we had separated} that things began to shift.  A wise teacher said to me “Danielle, when are you going to let yourself off the hook and begin to integrate the grief? The grief you’re feeling isn’t an indicator {in this situation} that a different choice should’ve been made. It's simply a living grief that will likely be with you forever and if you allow it, can be a great teacher and even a friend.”

Woah. Those hand full of words changed everything for me.

The moment I really got that leaning into grief was the best way to not be swallowed by it was the moment things started to heal in a whole different way.

I had new choices. I could embrace it, ritualize it, respect it, and even appreciate it.

As Bri Saussy wrote: “If you can’t change it, make it holy.”

And maybe we don’t want to change what happened, yet we still have grief around it.

So don’t change it… Instead, honor it.

Create an altar, an art project, a photograph, an essay telling a part or all of the story.

Recently I sat side by side with my ex-husband {with a mighty and palpable gap between us} at one of our children’s basketball games…. There was a moment during the game when, in sync, we both cheered the exact same words at the exact same moment, for our shared love. Our son.

It was a poignant 3 seconds for me and the whole experience just kind of hung in front of me as I wondered how many other non-couples spend their Saturday mornings sitting side by side through gritted teeth or forced smiles or mountains of pain and cheer for their common love? And how many don't show up, because they're so stuck in their own unbearable suffering?

I didn’t feel overwhelmed by grief I just felt aware. I became the witness and rode the wave. In the witnessing I felt connected to a greater experience, a collective grief that I know so many of us feel {and don't feel}.

I saw something human and beautiful and couldn’t resist taking a photo of us, as we are. Now.

As I leaned into the grief I found something else there… Hope. Something about the simple action of capturing a portion of this moment felt holy, and right and bigger than the relative and momentary wave of grief.I may not be able to always move our divorce relationship into the loving, authentic friend and family space I’d like it to live in but I can still honor the truth of what’s there – the pain and the beauty.

I can remind myself:

“You’re entitled to your feelings, your frustrations and anger and grief. You can make space for them, they won't swallow you. You don't have to do anything about them or analyze them and you can if you'd like to. You can create a new story about the experience that you’re having if you'd like. This doesn’t have to feel paralyzing or pointless. You can make it holy. You have choices.”

So I wonder...

What are you grieving today? (We’re all grieving something. Large or small. Visible or invisible.)

How could you befriend your grief and make it feel beautiful, meaningful, instructive, sacred… holy?

Maybe you want to take a commemorative photo, write a love letter, call a friend, de-clutter a corner of your home, shift the energy, and breathe light into the parts of yourself that feel oppressively heavy. The point here isn't to make it go away {although it may} but it is to lean in, to trust the grief and yourself, to experience your capacity for love and bathe in that beauty.

As Christina Rasmussen once wrote: “Time doesn’t heal. Action does.” Even the action of leaning in, of pausing of being with the moment can be the action that soothes and heals us.

to the parents out there that sit side by side with lifetimes of hurt between them cheering for the same cause, for a common love…

to the parents who smile through the pain and hold back tears and legal action and cheap shots…

for the sake of something bigger, for a common love…

to the parents who say with big encouraging smiles "bye sweetie, have a great time", who give reassuring hugs…

while shaking to hold back the tears, for a common love…

to the parents who show up for games and performances and graduations and weddings and discipline and field trips and school meetings and life decisions and doctor's appointments and playdates and the mundane and the monumental…

in spite of abuse and betrayal and irreconcilable differences, for a common love…

i see you. and so do they.

xo~ Danielle


Bjork has done it again, this latest album written while deep in the messiness of her own divorce grief is stunning. I adore this song.

PPS.This Jason Silva video "Existential Bummer" is a three minute deep dive into the beauty of inherent grief.

Blog PostDanielle