What is Grief?
Journey of Hearts
A Healing Place in CyberSpaceTM
 Grief is an universal feeling which may express itself in many different ways.

The reasons that people grieve and what constitutes a significant loss is a very individualized one, and yet in some fundamental ways very similar. The feelings of despair, wanting to disappear to crawl under a rock and never emerge...these are the common ones. the ones that people experience, but rarely share. The depth of these emotions is difficult for someone who has never lost to comprehend, so it may be difficult for friends and family members to understand.
What I have found most disturbing is for someone to tell me to "Get over it," not realizing what I am feeling, not understanding that this may be a cumulative effect, not recognizing that what evokes a grief response for one person, may not for another, and trying to be aware of those differences.

Grief comes in unexpected surges... 
Mysterious cues that set off a reminder of grief. 
It comes crashing like a wave, sweeping me in its crest, 
twisting me inside out. 
Then recedes, leaving me broken. 

Oh, Mama, I don't want to eat, to walk to get out of bed. 
Reading, working, cooking, listening, mothering... 
Nothing matters. 

I do not want to be distracted from my grief. 
I wouldn't mind dying. 
I wouldn't mind at all. 

Toby Talbert
This "What is Grief?" page is a collection of different ways of expressing grief, different definitions for grief, or different feelings evoked by grief. I have including these wide range of quotes to demonstrate that grief is a common emotion, and perhaps by realizing it is such a universal experience, knowing that others have lived through the depth of the emotions you are feeling and lived, will help you get through the darkest phases of grief. I have also included a poem that I wrote, "Darkness" during a phase when I was experiencing an acute loss.

If you find yourself needing more immediate words or Condolence and Deepest Sympathy, please link to this page.

As always, if you find yourself feeling suicidal or wanting to harm yourself, please dial 911 or your local Crisis Hot Line.

Classic Stages of Grief

First Stage: Denial

Second Stage: Bargaining

Third Stage: Anger

Fourth Stage: Depression

Fifth Stage: Acceptance

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.
On Surviving Grief

There is no exact set time for how long one person may grieve. Much depends on the type of loss, other factors that may have influenced the loss, what a person's coping mechanisms were before the loss, how many other losses and whether or not they have been dealt with in the past.
As a physician, I have lost many patients to death. Some of the deaths affect me more than others. Frequently, there would be a cumulative effect, several deaths close together, a loss of a friend or family member in conjunction with loss of patients, a loss of relationship, change in job situation, and suddenly you discover that you haven't been coping well, that you have to allow yourself time to grieve.
To quote from C.S. Lewis, one day you wake up and something is different....

Something quite unexpected has happened. 
It came this morning early. 
For various reasons, not in themselves at all mysterious, 
my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks... 
And suddenly, at the very moment when so far,  
I mourned [her] least, I remembered her best. 

Indeed it was something [almost] better than memory; 
an instantaneous, unanswerable impression. 
To say it was like a meeting would be going too far. 
Yet there was that in it which tempts one to use those words. 
It was a though the lighting of the sorrow removed a barrier. 

C.S. Lewis

After surviving a grief process, part of the healing from the loss is the realization that one is doing well enough to pass something on to someone else earlier in the stages of the transition process.  Many of the members of the Alliance,  those who have contributed to the website, are in their own healing process. The Alliance of Healing Hearts is a group united in the common denominator of loss...of having experienced grief, loss, a significant change of one kind or another, or care for those who are experiencing a loss.
Part of the surviving a loss is the telling of the story. To quote Elle Wiesel, one of the survivors of the Concentration Camps,

The need to tell the story, is further echoed by Martha Whitmore Hickman, author of Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working through Grief.
She writes: We hope you found something within this site that was beneficial for your healing process, to understand the grief reaction and get through the Transition phase. Perhaps it is just the knowledge that you are not alone or unique in your reaction.

Once you have reached a place of being able to share the story, we invite you to pass on your stories, poems, quotes so that others might heal.

E-mail can be sent to e-mail@kirstimd.com

Last updated January 12, 1998
All material, unless otherwise specified, is copyrighted 1997-8 by Journey of Hearts A Healing Place in CyberSpace. We invite you to share the information on this site with others who may benefit, but ask that you share from the heart only and not for profit.