June 1, 2021

The Best Definition of Grief I’ve Ever Heard. (Ever.)

Grief is the worst kind of enigma.

Not just because it buries itself in forgotten memories only to pop up when we least expect it.

Not just because its waves can feel relentless.

Not just because it leaves us breathless, again and again and again.

One of the reasons grief is so hard to process is because it’s so hard to define—because it is, by definition, a lack of something. It’s born of loss, and exists only as an emptiness.

How do you deal with something like that? A something that is nothing? How can you possibly try to get a handle on it, to nurture it, to shape it into something less excruciating in its spontaneity and less infinite in its ever-looming presence?

Jamie Anderson gives grief a definition, and it’s the best definition I’ve ever heard:


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It gives grief a shape, a reason, and an outlet.

If grief is love with nowhere to go—we can give it somewhere to go. Into letters, into journals, into art, into a person, into a cause, into a memory.

And once that grief has somewhere to go, its edges become a little more defined. Its pounding waves become a little gentler. Those buried memories that show themselves when we least expect it become a little more joyful to recall.

The best part of this definition of grief won’t be apparent right away. You’ll resist it at first. It’ll feel like the worst part of it, for quite a long time. It might even feel cruel.

But when the time is right, it’ll hit you: this definition of grief is a reminder that grief is a wonderful, sad, heartbreaking gift. Because grief is love, it’s having loved, it’s having been loved.

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