13 Jul The Uniting Power of Grief and Sorrow
Since loss is a part of life, grief is as well. While grief can be extremely debilitating emotionally, it can also be uniting. Sorrow is a universal emotion– no matter where you’re from, how old you are, what your background is, you know the intensity of sorrow and sadness. How can we use these raw, human experiences to unite in a world full of divisiveness?
In a recent episode of The Darin Olien Show,
I had a powerful conversation with writer Susan Cain about the uniting power of grief. As the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan herself is an introvert. The book obviously struck a nerve with introverts of the world, spending seven years on The New York Times bestseller list. Her latest book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, is about grief and sadness and how we should embrace those emotions instead of running from them.
Grief is Bittersweet
Although we spent the first half of our conversation talking about the misconceptions of being an introvert (fellow introvert here!), we pivoted to sadness. However, that first part was extremely relevant to the second half. Because self-awareness is key to understanding how we process the world, and process emotions. While introverts tend to be overwhelmed by stimulation, extroverts thrive on it.
Understanding yourself and how you process information, can help you understand your feelings. Because grief is an extremely intense emotion. While it’s often clouded by sadness, sorrow, or even helplessness, it also can be extremely bittersweet. When I think of the term “bittersweet”, I often think of loved ones I’ve lost. Thinking about someone who’s passed away, remembering the fond memories you shared with them, and simultaneously being filled with sadness that they’re no longer with you. “To be a human in this world is to know simultaneously joy and sorrow,” Susan said. And how true this is.
You Can Feel Grief for Many Different Reasons
You don’t have to lose someone close to you to experience grief. Grief can be caused by many different kinds of losses. The loss of a friendship, the loss of a longtime job or career, the loss of a home, the loss of a close family relationship– all these experiences can manifest into grief. When I lost my home to a fire, it took me a while to realize the intense clusterf*ck of emotion I was experiencing was indeed grief. Once I was fully aware of what I was feeling, I had to let it flow through me, experience the pain and learn how to move forward. Now I’m certainly not comparing the loss of a home to the loss of a loved one. The grief I have from losing my father is in a whole other category- and something I work through daily. But the point is, they are both feelings of grief. And with grief, comes pain. Susan had a brilliant way to explain how to channel that pain into healing. She said, “Whatever pain you can’t get rid of, make that your creative offering.” Wow, so incredibly powerful! And I certainly followed that line of thinking after I lost everything I owned to the wildfires. I used it as fuel for my purpose– and it only strengthened my passion for sustainable living and saving the planet.
When you lose a loved one, however, sometimes it’s not as clear. The pain of that loss can be so incredibly overwhelming, that it’s hard to see past it. It’s important to remember that grief is just another form of love. “The love you lost, it’s probably not going to return to you in the form in which you lost it,” Susan explained. “But love itself comes back in all different sorts of forms. Love is just a field. And you can enter that field if you’re open to it in different forms.”
If Love Unites Us, So Does Grief
What is more uniting than love? If we think of grief as the unexpressed love we have for the one we lost, it’s easier to see the connective power of that emotion. We all have loved, we all have lost, and we all have a longing to find that love again. Perhaps instead of bottling up these intense feelings of grief, we should normalize expressing them. I know from making this podcast that relatable experiences are an amazing way to connect with people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from an episode thinking, “Wow, I had so much more in common with this person than I thought.” We all love, so we all grieve. This is an important sentiment to remember as we navigate today’s divisive climate.