I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people about grief. In the six years that I ran my support group, Beyond Alzheimer’s, grief was a frequent topic. And even when it wasn’t being actively discussed, it hovered in the background. I’ve said and written that grief is something we need to surrender to when it’s upon us – not avoid or run from – because ignoring it won’t make it retreat. Eventually, you will have to cross that river. You will have to go through the ebbs and flows, the times when you feel like you’re drowning and the times when you have the respite of floating.

            But these days, there is so much grief in the world, I have wondered if what I’ve said and what I’ve believed about grief is enough. It’s coming at us from every corner. The planet is suffering mightily and there is a very good chance that earth as we know it won’t survive. We’ve gone through the loss of hundreds of thousands of people to Covid, and now we watch and listen daily to the news coming out of Ukraine. This wasn’t supposed to happen again in our modern world, is the near-constant refrain. We have pledged “never again” but here we are again. Innocent civilians slaughtered, their bodies dumped on roads like trash, women raped in front of their children, people tortured and then executed. Entire cities leveled. The images haunt and fester inside us – the woman finding her son’s body in a well, the family shot dead in the dirt, the lifeless body of a man by the bicycle he was riding, his groceries spilled on the ground, and his loyal dog lying beside his corpse. Genocide is playing out on our television and computer screens. We weep, we get angry, but what are we to do with grief this massive? 

            It’s tempting to try and push the pain away with anger. Anger is easier to handle; there is an adrenaline rush to it, it doesn’t feel like drowning, it feels like speeding down the road at 80 miles an hour. The problem is, the road runs out and grief is still there, waiting. 

            I’ve told many people to remember that their grief over a loved one is because of the love they feel for that person. If you had never loved, you would never grieve. So how, I’ve wondered, does this apply to millions of people we will never meet? What I’ve decided is that love, in this context, is different. We grieve because we love them as fellow human beings who built lives for themselves and their families. They had homes, gardens; they cooked dinners, did laundry, watered houseplants. They dreamed and planned and worried over children and elderly relatives. Then the bombs came. Then the soldiers came. Then everything was destroyed. We love them for their courage and the resilience they probably didn’t even know they had, and that’s why we are grieving along with them.

            In his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, President Zelensky said, “I’m not a hero. I’m just an ordinary person.” Maybe it’s that ordinariness we should be celebrating, clinging to in the midst of so much horror. Ordinary people do not slaughter other human beings. They don’t torture and degrade others and drive them from their homes, their country. Only people who have killed their own souls do that. 

            This grief feels dark and relentless. But there is still light coming from those who are engulfed in that darkness. The man playing music in the rubble of his ruined town. The citizens of Poland who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees.

            Grief has many colors. We need to remember that when it seems that all we can see is darkness.


  1. My1stGradeTeacher says:

    Yes, we stand with Ukraine!

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