Overcoming grief: It will go if we don’t cling to it

Grief is an incredibly painful emotion. So painful that most of us would rather feel anger or depression than experience it. I know this because eight years ago I lost my daughter Loretta. She was stillborn in the eighth month of my pregnancy.

I am a Humanist and pretty much the first thing we Humanists do after experiencing something traumatic like the loss of a child is to make a conscious decision.

And that is to accept our grief in the present with the goal of eventually moving on to live a happy and fulfilling life despite our loss.

This choice doesn’t mean we are planning to avoid our grief. That isn’t possible. We simply do not fight it. If we allow ourselves to experience our grief as it comes to us, we know that over time, we will experience less intense grief and more moments of happiness. And we’re OK with that.

What we aren’t willing to do is to hold onto our grief indefinitely. We simply experience it and learn to live with it. As rational as this approach seems, I meet people all the time who are working very hard to try and hold on to their grief. I don’t see how they do it. Not only is it impossible to feel that intensely all the time, the bigger question is why would anyone want to.

Grief feels horrible. It’s not something I would ever choose to experience voluntarily. And yet, some people choose to do just that. And yes, it is a choice.

Grief naturally ebbs over time on its own. To maintain high levels of grief you have to choose to cling to it even as it starts to ebb away. You also have to shoo away happiness whenever you are fortunate enough to experience it.

After I lost my daughter I decided that since I was going to continue living, I might as well try and be happy, at least part of the time anyway. And no, that’s not a betrayal of my grief. The way I looked at it was that if anyone had earned a little happiness, it was me.

I welcomed and celebrated every tiny moment I didn’t feel like my world had just ended. I refused to ruin those few seconds of happiness by feeling guilty that I wasn’t grieving correctly. I knew my grief would return soon enough. It always did.

I allowed my grief to ebb and flow and over time, my grief became less intense and less frequent and my heart had room for joy again, despite my loss.

If you are grieving please accept my heartfelt sympathies. I hope my story helps.

Jennifer Hancock, can be found on the web at