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The Work of Grief

Monday, March 29th, 2021

by Dr. Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD


We have much to grieve.

As I write this on March 31, 2021, we are just a couple of thousand people away from 550,000 COVID-19 deaths in the US.  We are also currently in the early days of a trial related to George Floyd’s death, and it reminds us of the problem we have with racism and colorism in the US.  We have also seen the political divide and culture wars split our country, and split friendships and families in its wake.

And all of that has been taking place on top of the many causes for grief we must already face in our lives - the death of loved ones, divorces, lost jobs and a challenging economy, histories of abuse, and all forms of trauma in our lives when we were children.  Life is hard, and we have an internal sense, an unpleasant but genuine realization that the only way through is through.  We would prefer to go around those agonizing memories.  We would like to just forget and not be impacted by them.  But we know deep down inside that we need to remember, that we need to feel, that we need to grieve our hurts and our losses.

We have much to grieve.

Easter is just around the corner.  I don’t know if you believe in God’s existence or in the biblical story of Jesus coming to earth, dying, and then rising from the dead.  But whether you believe it or not, it’s a good story with some valuable lessons in it for all of us.  

The Friday before Easter is known as Good Friday.  Don’t get confused by the word “good.”  It comes from an Old English word that simply meant “holy.”  But don’t get confused by that reference either.  It may be “holy” because it is connected to Easter and Christ’s resurrection, but it is anything but that in the actual experience of the day in history.  It was a miserable day.

An innocent man ends up caught in the political and religious chaos of his day, and he ends up being executed. Some of the religious are thrilled because they have just removed what they perceived to be a religious threat.  Some of the politicians are thrilled because they have just removed what they perceived to be a political threat.  But the followers and friends of Jesus are devastated because their friend and leader is dead.  For them Good Friday was a miserable and agonizing day of losing a friend and losing confidence and hope.

It’s quite a story, and it reminds us of the challenges and overwhelming difficulties of life at times.  We see how external events impact our lives, how we are left with little or no control over what happens next!  

All of that to tell you this:  Hope emerges in the context of grief.  If you want to move toward psychological and relational health, then you have to feel things you don’t want to feel, and you have to process those feelings with others.  By the time you read this Easter will have come and gone.  I’ll tell you a bit more about the Easter story and hope next week.  But for this week, I encourage you to give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel, and to grieve what you need to grieve.

If you are having difficulty letting yourself feel and grieve the variety of losses and injuries in your own life, give us a call and let us help.  River Counseling Services and Sioux Falls Psychological Services meet you where you are, offering hope.  You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444, or meet with one of our Sioux Falls Psychological Services therapists from your own computer or smartphone.  To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.