Alone Together

What is it about grief that causes us to come together?

If there is one thing that I have learned over the course of my own grief journey, it is the notion of grief being something that we each must trudge through alone.  Anyone who has experienced the loss of someone dear to them has likely felt the isolation and subjectiveness of their grief.  While it is true that you will rarely be the sole griever when a person dies, it is equally true that the onus is on you to work through your own personal grief.

Yet, nothing brings people together like grief.  Turn on the news any given day and you are likely to be drawn in to a story about a community that rallied together to mourn the loss of a cherished neighbor, a college or high school sports team mourning the tragic death of a fellow team member or coach, even entire countries mourning the loss of a beloved celebrity like Princess Diana, Dale Earnhardt, or Steve Irwin.  It is a powerful and emotional testament to the depth to which losses are felt by so many, and the universality of grief.

This coming together also happens with individuals who experience a similar loss.  There is a kinship that exists between two mothers who meet after the death of their babies.  This bond is indescribable and so alluring that often, when the loss is especially profound, these people find they want nothing more than to be in the company of another bereaved person.  Look to any community newspaper’s classified section and there you will find a listing of local grief support groups, categorized by the type of loss.  There are groups for adult children who have lost a parent, people grieving after the loss of a pet, support for bereaved spouses, as well as those mourning the loss of a child.

So, if grief is something that you have to process alone, what is it that causes people to come together to grieve?  Anyone who has experienced deep loss knows the unbearable anguish and pain that envelops you completely.  Acute grief is all-consuming.  As a result, you lose the ability to see beyond the pain.  It becomes impossible to believe that it will get better; that your hurt will ease.  It is as if a wall has gone up in front of your eyes, and you are forever trapped inside this place of complete emotional disarray.  That is, until you meet someone else who has been there.

Something that has become almost cliché where grief and bereavement are concerned is the statement,  “The only way around grief is through it.”  Facing the depths of your grief can be scary and lonely, and connecting with someone who is surviving while grieving brings tremendous hope to those who are feeling lost in solitary despair.  While there is nothing that this other person can do to walk you though your grief, there is strength to be gained in knowing that they have been thrown into their own pit of deep grief and come out on the other side.  This is the power of coming together in grief.