Learning to Grieve Well

grief

Research shows that those of us who have grown up as third culture kids have layers on layers of loss.

Dave Pollock, a man who arguably did more to understand the third culture kid experience than any other before his death, said this: “One of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short-lived.At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good.It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief.”

He ends the paragraph with these words:

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.”

We are told we need to grieve our losses. We are told that this is healthy, that this will help us move forward in life, not paralyzed by what was, instead purposeful in what now is.

But what does grieving those losses look like? How do we grieve?

Cecily at Cecily.Mostly wrote a post about grief – specifically getting over grief – a couple of weeks ago. The post is full of wisdom and sound advice.

It struck me as I’ve thought about grieving, specifically grieving well that it’s something we have to learn. But how do we learn it?

It helps by reading posts like that of Cecily’s, it helps also to read books like the classic CS Lewis, A Grief Observed. But part of it is not about outside resources and more about walking with one foot in front of the other and owning the grief.

The ‘grief and loss’ road has been a long one for me. And it’s not just about being a third culture kid. This road has been full of what it looks like to not grieve well and that’s not pretty. But through the journey I think I’m learning more of what it means to grieve well.

So here are a couple of things I’ve learned about grief.

Grief is good. You can’t grieve well if you don’t grieve. I grieved because I loved my life in Pakistan and then in Egypt. Yes – hear this loudly – I loved boarding school! I didn’t love everything about it but does any kid love everything about school? I think not! My grieving is not bad – it is a protective emotion. It is cathartic. It reminds me how much I loved. Grief and grieving is a good thing. Understanding grief as something good is a first step in grieving well.

Grief is individual. It is unique. Though grief itself is universal, my response to my specific circumstance is unique. It is caused by, and directed at, an event or series of events that are from my perspective. And just as the stamp of my fingerprint is like no other, so is my grief. Grieving well means understanding and living with the paradox of grief being universal and grief being personal and unique.Understanding that grief is universal helps me let others in; understanding that my grief is unique helps me to give grace when their suggestions may fall short.

Grief is rarely nicely organized. Grief doesn’t fit into nice categories or pockets. And those that try to put it there want to medicate us too quickly instead of allowing us to process, to go the hard route of getting to the bottom of grief and slowly healing. Grieving well means understanding that it is not well-organized and the more I can accept that, the less surprised I will be when it comes on like a tsunami in the most unlikely places.

Grief is physical and emotional. Grief is exhausting. The yawning. The anger. The wanting to cry but knowing you can’t –  all of that is physically exhausting. Grieving well means that I’ll be conscious of how grief affects me physically and do what I can to sleep and to eat well: protein and vitamin C, those physical healers need to abound in my diet.

Grief is culturally based. From wailing at funerals in Pakistan to the stoicism in a German woman diagnosed with cancer, responses to grief are culturally based. I cannot assume that others are not grieving because their grief ‘looks’ different. Grief knows no national boundaries, but it is definitely culturally bound. Grieving well means understanding how the culture where I am now living both defines and copes with grief, yet understanding that as one who knows what it is to live between worlds, I can choose to define and cope in other ways.

Laughter in the midst of grief is okay. Grieving well means understanding that laughter and joy are holy gifts. In the midst of grief it can be amazing to laugh until you begin to cry. It feels wrong at times – how can we laugh when something so terrible has happened, or when grief rips our souls, when we’re still full of pain? The amazing truth is that we can laugh. And laughter is good. It is holy.

Spiritual truths that we believed when we weren’t grieving are still true. They just don’t feel true. So know God doesn’t waste pain. Never. Part of me doesn’t want to say this because it is so cliché. But it’s also truth. He doesn’t waste pain. He doesn’t waste grief. Period. Full stop.

He meets us under whirring fans or beside oceans; in cold bedrooms or curled up on couches. He is as present at six as he will be at sixty. He speaks to us in our grief and in our pain.  And he never, ever gives up on us – even when we give up on ourselves.

How do you grieve well? What truth have you learned about grief? Please do share – we need each other.

This essay (and others that speak to living between worlds) is available in the book Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging

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73 thoughts on “Learning to Grieve Well

      1. Marilyn, I keep coming back to this post. It’s such an important subject. I just read Kate’s open letter to grief. It’s amazing and had me in tears again!

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      2. Me as well– I don’t know if you read the piece in a Life Overseas about grieving but that got me thinking again about this complicated subject. I loved Kate’s piece as well.

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  1. I’m a TCK. I see myself grieving less than most folks – maybe because I’m used to saying goodbye. To wit: a family recently announced their pending relocation 2500 miles away to another state. Most in the Sunday School class (the family was the leader of the class for 15 years) started crying or tearing up. I simply shrugged to myself and didn’t get phased at all by the news. No lump in my throat. No sinking feeling in my stomach. No emotions at all. Nothing. Just a mental “oh well”. I just adjusted mentally that I’d have to text my friend and call him more often after the move, but knew that over the months, the contact would wane, until it was minimal or non-existent. That is the way life really is, so why get all worked up like all my fellow class mates? But I often wonder if I’m an emotional anamoly. Why did it impact everyone else so much, and me so little? Am I unusual? Am I too callous? I don’t think so. But it’s the way I am.

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    1. I appreciate this – I’ve had times where I’ve not only shrugged but thought “Really? What’s the big deal?” and it’s usually situations like the one you’ve detailed.where I feel like the move seems small to me, paltry in comparison to the moves I and others have made. In other ways I don’t relate with the comment because the grief catches up with me at some point and in seeming non-related situations. That’s what I’ve found to be difficult. I’m curious as to when you returned to your passport country and if you’ve found that to be difficult or just one more life experience.

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      1. Essentially returning to the US was just another move. Was so used to it from growing up and having friends rotate to the US for furlough, etc, that it really didn’t make much difference once I got in high school. Sort of got used to it and accepted it.

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    2. Wow! Thank you so much for posting this! I honestly thought I was just strange because I often felt numb instead of emotional. I was afraid I was the only one and no one else would understand me. I’m only 17 but I’ve been on the mission field since I can remember and every years involves a goodbye and a hello to someone, often my current best friend. But after a while I had to force myself to cry at airports when my friends left, and now I just say goodbye and realize “That’s it. I probably won’t see them again in the near future. Oh well.” I feel so much better now that I know I’m not the only one! Even if this isn’t healthy or normal, at least I know I’ve got others who feel the same. :)

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      1. You are definitely not the only one….in fact I have to link up a post I wrote in the spring called “I don’t do goodbye”. You’ll relate with it I think. http://www.alifeoverseas.com/i-dont-do-goodbye/
        I think the west tends to want us to get through grief quickly …. if we don’t, they want us to go on meds. There are other parts of the world where grief can be displayed openly and dramatically, perhaps helping us get over it quicker. Where are you living Tanya? So glad you found the blog!

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      2. Hi Marilyn! I’ve been living in Peru for all my life (minus HMA); my dad is German, and my mom is a US MK who grew up in Argentina. I’ve been saying goodbye all my life and I guess I have just grown numb to it and don’t know how to express my grief because I don’t feel it. I see goodbyes as something that just happens and don’t feel sad anymore. Its probably not healthy and I’m afraid that all the grief I am unaware of right now will come pouring out someday all at once. But you are right, I don’t do goodbyes, just I love you’s…maybe that’s why I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye and don’t feel sad…I don’t know, but I do feel very comforted by reading your blog and that of other MK and TCKs. Thanks again!

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  2. My husband and I are both third culture kids and we are raising a third culture kid and are about to (1 week away) from moving to the US which is a ‘foreign country’ to us! This article resonates well with our emotions and processing here. Thank you.

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    1. Alaina – I’m so glad you found the article and came by. I get this! The US is a foreign country isn’t it? It’s all twisted around for those of us who grew up as tck’s. My prayer is that Grace will enter your space between. I wrote in A Life Overseas about When a TCK raises TCK’s…..it’s got a whole separate set of challenges and joys. Thank you again for coming by.

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  3. I relate to grief being unpredictable. Just today, after saying goodbye to two families we’ve worked and lived with for years, I found myself crying over what seemed like it should be nothing! I appreciated your encouragement to let it be unpredictable and allow grief to wash over even when it is unexpected and sometimes unwelcome too.
    I need to search your blog more, helping my children embrace grief will also be a theme in my parenting overseas.

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    1. I think the unpredictability is one of the hardest things – because it can throw us into chaos. About 2 weeks ago in the middle of church I realized I didn’t know what was going on and everyone else seemed to – the grief came upon me so unexpectedly and felt so ridiculous, so childish – until I realized it was that sense of being “other” that had pushed itself into my experience yet again. Thanks for reading and offering your voice. Would love to have you read and comment more on what you find helpful – or not so helpful!

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      1. Ah. Church makes me a mess too. I’m not a tck but I’ve heard the term Adult TCK and after 12 years I think that describes me. I identify with the “other” feeling when I’m in what’s supposed to be my home culture. We left one month prior to 9/11 and America changed greatly afterwards.
        I find your blog chock full of great ideas and information! Thank you for sharing yourself with the wider community.

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  4. Thank you for your words, which prompted me to post the following on my own fb:

    In the childhood of TCK’s, relationships (not location/environment) are the primary point of identity/meaning; the centre of their grounding, their connection to their “place in life”. It’s the rebar buried deep within the concrete. Integral. Unremovable – the Silent Structure that holds all together.

    Growing up in a different culture, constantly moving – Relationships were the only constant. Only, they never were constant. We were forever saying good-bye. I remember as a 5yr old the tearful question to my Dad, about my closest friends with whom I ran barefooted daily in the jungles of Borneo, “Does this mean I will never see them again??” His answer: Yes. Good-bye to our parents in living life in a boarding school. And good-bye regularly to school friends who followed the movement of their own families. — One could choose to shut down, or you could choose to invest and dig deeply into your friendships because you knew that you’d only be together for a short time.

    That lesson clarified for me in 1974, with the fall of Vietnam. I was about 12. It was a fearful time, even though we in boarding school lived in Malaysia. The war felt very close. Esp. since many of our friends’ parents worked in Vietnam (some parents were martyred there). The fear was constant. During these times, people (children) often bond differently -more closely. I remember the great sadness when we realized we would have to say goodbye to our ‘Vietnam-friends’. Their parents were going to be rescued, airlifted to safety and a return to the US. For days I agonized in my childlike conversations with God. I came to a clear decision that I could shut myself off and never be hurt again, or I could choose to pour myself into my friendships for whatever time I had with them. A life turning-point. I went to some friends and we planned a big surprise farewell party for our classmates who had to leave. A celebration wh/ included colour themes, Elton John’s song ‘Leavin’ on a Jet Plane’ as the theme song, lovingly handmade autograph books to be circulated (I still have mine), & a program that gave us opportunity to say goodbye — all instigated & carried out by 12yr olds.

    Only one of many goodbyes.

    So this thing of Relationship being the anchor of life for the third-culture kid, is actually a two-edged sword. That anchor, given to hold us together, was the very thing that we were having to let go of. Repeatedly. Thus, the core of embedded sadness referred to in the blog “Learning to grieve well”.

    Like all things in life, we can allow ourselves to ‘be used by the pain’, or we can turn it around & use it for great Good – for ourselves and for others. The biggest life-lesson for me was that I could totally rely on God to be my constant. That relationship – His love and constant Presence – is the grace with which I can love life through whatever painful times might cross my path. In that context, I say again – I will forever cherish my upbringing. From it so many treasures I hold dear.

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    1. This is a blog post! So beautifully said. And I love your challenge – to be “used by the pain” or to ask for it to be used for great Good. Thank you. Today was a day I needed to learn more about the “use for great Good” so needed to read what you wrote. Would love to hear more from you.

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  5. Great thoughts on grief, Marilyn. As we approach the end of another school year here at Dakar Academy, we are gearing up for another round of those tough good-byes. Being an MK myself, I know from painful, beautiful experience how true your words are. I’d like to read this post to the dorm boys next week when I lead their evening devotions (with your permission). It will give us some great stuff to talk about. Thanks.

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    1. I’d love for you to use this however you think it may help Tim. I well remember those goodbyes – both graduation day and the day after are permanently etched on my memory as two poignant days. A few years ago a friend who I grew up with wrote a book about growing up in Pakistan – it was called Some Far and Distant Place and one of the chapters is called “Graduation” it gets at the boarding school and saying goodbye piece and though its Pakistan specific it has some of those universal things that we go through. How great that you get this and have gone through it in the past – I would think it could make a huge difference in how you hear their stories. Thanks so much for reading.

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  6. Thanks for this post, Marilyn!
    I’ve only recently begun thinking more about the grief we carry around inside of us – the grief that suddenly comes up out of nowhere and brings tears to one’s eyes. One word, one picture, a scent or a memory that sets it off.
    I’m not sure I’ve completely figured out how to deal with it, but it helps me to realize that the different places, friends and “homes” have shaped me into who I am today. They were and are extremely important to me – I experienced big losses. And it is okay to be sad. And it is okay to miss them.
    Anyways, still trying to figure it all out ;)
    Greetings from Europe!

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    1. This so resonates. It’s so interesting to me the way grief times itself (or doesn’t really) and how it can remain buried for so long, seemingly unimportant. It’s a bit volcanic isn’t it? I agree with you fully though in terms of how its shaped you. I wouldn’t change it. A couple of years ago I was in Pakistan helping with flood relief work. The last day of our time I was waiting in a hospital compound and reminiscing aloud. As I reminisced and listened to the woman who was with me, new to Pakistan, suddenly all my life made sense. All of it. Every job, heart ache, every move…it was as though I was sitting above the earth looking down at my life, and it all made sense. It was an epiphany of sorts. I could have died right then and had no regrets. Obviously I didn’t :) and lived to begin blogging but I’ll never forget the assurance of what has gone into who I have become. So thanks for sharing your story.

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      1. Yes, it’s very volcanic!
        I’m thankful as well, for all the different mosaic pieces of my life. I grew up in Central Asia as well, and I love the mosaic patterns on e.g. the mosques. Maybe you know them from Pakistan. In a way, they remind me of life – we get handed pieces and wonder how they will ever fit into our life – no straight edges, maybe a totally different shape or shade of blue – but they eventually create a beautiful design that is absolutely unique in it’s beauty.
        Anyhow…what I find even more difficult about “proper” grief is the letting go. It sounds silly as I am writing this, but to me it often feels like I am saying goodbye to an important part of who I am – betraying my past, betraying my identity, so to speak. I know that’s not the case, and I know there is a lot of healing in letting go, but sometimes it’s just hard to see it that way.

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      2. I hear you. I remember at one point beginning to feel more of a sense of belonging and I panicked. To feel it felt like I was betraying my loves. Like I was settling for mediocrity. I remember having a moment of truth and honesty where I identified this and realized I was allowed to love both. That living fully was not betraying my past but honoring what it taught me. I still have miles to go in this journey and it has helped tremendously to write and get connected to people like you. Also about the architecture– yes! The tiles, the arches, the minarets, the call to prayer– all part of the world I love so much! Marilyn Gardner Sent from my iPhone

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  7. The thing is, where do I go to grieve? I wish I could just city by the city gates in rags and ashes and have everyone understand what I’m going through and allow it. But that’s not the way it is – there is family to care for, money to earn, many other people to deal with, so the process seems prolonged because it has to go on internally, with occasional spurts when I’m alone during the day. I so long to feel “normal” again!
    When a leader (in a church, for example) challenges people to get out of their “comfort zone” I feel like telling them I don’t know what that is, or where it is!
    I really appreciate your article!
    God bless!

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    1. I so relate with this – I can’t even describe how I feel reading this comment. I remember wanting the same thing – to sit by the city gates. I don’t know if you’ve read my post When Grief Surfaces, but I describe in there what it was like to suddenly have time and have a seemingly non related event trigger waves of grief. It was my “sitting at the gates of the city” moment except I was alone. A woman I grew up with in Pakistan talks in one of her blog posts about how we have “socially unacceptable” grief and that makes it harder. I’ve linked the blog post here – but want to thank you again for this poignant comment. https://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2012/08/13/when-grief-surfaces/

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  8. Grief. I’m in the midst of it with my mother’s passing at the end of February. My dad arrived yesterday and he’s deeper in it than I am–which makes perfect sense after 50+ years of marriage. So that, plus all the other losses that seem to want to make sure they’re not forgotten.

    I like to talk to the kids I work with about how for TCKs grief is more developmental. It’s part of who they are. It’s not that they walk around sad and weighed down all the time, but it’s that they know grief is a normal part of life. It needs to be acknowledged. I love how you said that understanding it is a good emotion is the first part of grieving well.

    I contrast it with many monoculturals who have only an occasional encounter with grief. Grief is not woven into the fabric of their being. It’s a garment they wear on occasion. Some may live in their grief for a while, but it isn’t part of their DNA.

    I struggle with helping kids grieve well–with designing a good, thoughtful, exercise and environment to give them room, permission, and a vehicle to acknowledge and begin the process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–they give me some new places to start ruminating. I welcome any ideas you have.

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    1. This is so beautifully articulated! Yes – it’s in the fabric of our lives. It’s part of who we are and that differs dramatically from monocultural kids. I get what you mean about struggling to help kids grieve well – because until we’re ready to acknowledge the grief, we can’t grieve well. I’ve seen some good exercises around naming grief but over all when I think about it I come up blank! Stories are good, and writing our stories can help I think. I’ll have to think more about this. Thanks Sheryl – I’m so glad we’ve connected.

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      1. Thanks, Marilyn. If anything ever comes to mind, I’m all ears. I printed out Cecily.Mostly’s post. She had some good ideas in there. I just have to figure out how to translate them down to multiple age groups–and try to discern if they’re ready for it or not. Phew. I’m so glad we’ve connected, too. You da bomb! :)

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      2. heehee! Thank you! I was thinking about Cecily’s too but thought the same thing about translating into other ages. It’s a hard one.

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    2. Hey Cousin, I sit here washed over with grief as I read this article and I am not sure why I am even crying… but I can’t stop. I grieve the family I left behind and at the top of the list was your MOM. She was so for us. Maybe.. it is because we have lived and immersed into the culture we came to. An indigenous people who have been marginalized and abused, answering it with death-entrapment living. We all live in suspended grief as the losses multiply with little time to absorb the waves of shock and deep loss before the next one hits. So I cry… and seize the pearls of laughter. I know that Our Father lovingly holds our tears. One day He will reveal our treasure in heaven that each tear produced.

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      1. I’m thinking you must be related to Sheryl and am so glad you came by — your comment is so beautifully written. “Suspended grief” – yes.

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  9. The magazine initiated by Dave Pollack, AMONG WORLDS, did an issue dedicated to grief a few years ago, and have highlighted the subject since. Look it up – they’ve done a lot of leg work on the subject – very helpful.

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  10. Aghr, this was timely.

    I’m in another layer of TCK grief at present, and my chronic temptation is to cringe and self-flagellate a bit and scowl “This AGAIN?!” So I cry out for more mercy than the little mercy I’m able to show myself. Slowly, slowly, sloooooowly I am learning to be kind to myself by admitting having my family and friends scattered breaks my heart. The honesty is the healing balm.

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    1. Yes, yes, and yes – the cringing, the self-flagellation – all of that. I love so much the way you’ve put this. I’m going to quote this on my Saturday post…”I cry out for more mercy….” thank you Valerie – SO.Much.

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  11. Thank you for your words here. I am not a TCK, but I find that things that TCK’s have been through resonate poignantly within me. Perhaps because my parents moved every two years and so I never had a sense of stability. Perhaps because they sent me away to live with other relatives for a time when I was young without asking me if I wanted to or was willing. Perhaps because I never felt like I fully fit in wherever I went–except when I was with people from another country or ex-pats. Whatever the case, I have grieved for years and years myself and feel like I am just now, in my early 40’s, coming to finally be more at peace.

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    1. You sound like you completely had the TCK experience – moving, identity, loss, not fitting in – Welcome :) I am so so glad to have you here. Who have you found in your life who can really relate to your experience? Do you tend to gravitate toward immigrants or those who have moved a lot? Would love to hear more.

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  12. thank you, a really interesting read.
    For me two of the most important things I’ve learnt about grief (it has take me over 20 years to realise this) are

    1) You need to acknowledge your grief – hiding it and hiding from it is going to get you nowhere. In order to understand my reactions to new grief I have had to learn to acknowledge and recognise how grief from childhood has made grief as an adult a lot more painful. It took a therapist to show me how strongly grief weaves through my life story and how often I have hidden from dealing with it because it is painful.

    2) Explaining to your loved ones why you react the way you do can save heartache for you all. For me one of the lasting reactions to grief and loss felt as a child is I like to know when I will see people next. It gives me a sense of security and helps me feel loved. My closest friends who at first thought it plain weird, now see why I am like this and accept it. They know it helps me to have the security of a next meeting or call to look forward to.

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    1. These two suggestions that have helped you strike me as so wise and so practical. Also the way you write makes me think the closest friends are not necessarily those who have experienced the same sorts of loss, yet they can understand and accept you despite that. If that is the case, I love it. I’ve found that true as well. Sometimes the acceptance comes in the most unlikely places.

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      1. You are right, my closest and most accepting friends come from families that have little in common with my own. Most have lived in the same house or at least the same town throughout their childhood. Some have had other forms of grief to deal with but most have had the type of life I’ve envied in the past. I am very lucky to have them as they accept me as I am. When my best friend married a few years ago I was bridesmaid, she knows I’m not a dress type of girl and knows the importance of Pakistan to me so she had a beautiful Shalwar Kameez made for me. The respect they have for what makes me different has gone a long way to helping me feel more settled in the UK.

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  13. It seems to me that we grieve because what we lost holds such value to us. Thinking of grief in that way has helped me to fear grief less, despite it’s pain, because grief is the high honor we offer to what we love. Thanks for ‘counting the ways’ you’ve come to understand and honor grief, Marilyn. Lovely, meaningful words.

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    1. Yes! When we lose what we love, what we hold of value – we grieve. That is a gift. To know we loved and had….thanks yet again for walking me through so much of this process.

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    1. I loved the words you used on your post “There is no escaping the fact that tragedy tries to trample on triumph. There is no denying that joy and sorrow are always dancing and intertwined in complex ways.” so beautiful and true – it’s that “holy ache’. I posted yours on the CAB Facebook page as this is the time of year when many are saying their graduation goodbyes overseas. Thank you for linking the article.

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  14. Going along the idea that grief isolates, when I left Asia to come to the US for college (I LOVED boarding school too!) I felt very, very alone among the many people surrounding me. I was living in a house with people who knew my family and loved on me, taught me how to drive, took me to church, etc. I started school and was with peers a lot as well. Despite all this, I felt completely isolated unless I was on the phone with a friend from high school or something of that sort. Yes, I felt alone unless people who came from the same situation who were all states, if not oceans apart, were in contact with me. Sometime between 6 months and 1 year, things changed. I no longer feel alone, like a stranger among acquaintances, but every now and then that same grief is triggered unexplainably. I’m still figuring out why on some random day I feel like a freshman in college again- alone and isolated, but I personally deal with it now by talking through it- about my experiences, what I miss, and such with those closest to me. Sometimes I just cry while telling random stories about dorm wars in the Philippines or going to church in Japan and it makes no logical sense- but bringing them along takes away the loneliness and those closest to me understand me a little better.

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    1. I love that you shared some of your journey here Stephanie! You took me back to my college days when coming from Murree. I wonder – did having a mom who went through this help or was it a private grief? Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Yes, grief does isolate you. It is very difficult to talk about especially when it goes on and on because resolution is very difficult for whatever reason. In that case, sometimes the grief can be complicated by guilt–a result of not being able to get beyond it. Of course, talking about it can help resolve it but maybe there is shame. After all, it happened so long ago and “I should be over it”. It becomes complicated to try and figure out where to break the vicious cycle and so it becomes easier to just bury it. Obviously, not a healthy solution. Sometimes we end up dealing with it in messy ways. It would be nice to have easy solutions but more than anything I am learning to trust God through the process…

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    1. This is so true. I experienced deep shame and guilt when we moved to the states from Cairo. I was a grown up. I should just adapt. I should I should I should…..all the I shoulds made me crazy and guilty and full of shame. It has been so healthy to heal from that and recognize where I am allowed to grieve. Thank you Christine!

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  16. My friend Steve has said two really helpful things on this subject. #1: People who grieve deeply have the capacity to experience joy deeply as well. I think that’s true. #2: One time Steve saw me laughing over something. He commented, “Robynn you are always such a joyful person! You have a joyful spirit!” I immediately burst into tears and said it wasn’t true. I’m secretly dying on the inside. I’m miserable most of the time. I fake it. Steve sweetly shook his head, “That’s not faking it Miss Robynn. That’s the God-given gift of joy! Jesus has given you the ability to be able to laugh in the midst of sorrow.” Those two things have stuck with me.

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    1. I LOVE what Steve said to you. It’s so true – coming from a family where one of us (Cliff) has that gift, I also know how much it is needed. Thanks Robynn.

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  17. Today is the 6th anniversary of my Mom’s death. I thought I would blog about it, knowing there are so many others that are in my situation. What a relief to see your blog in my inbox and be ministered to this morning. I hope you don’t mind but I have passed it along on my site. God Bless you!

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    1. I am so glad you shared about the anniversary of your mom’s death. I still have my mom and am tremendously grateful, but have heard from close friends who have lost theirs that it is really one of those deep life losses that you grieve. Thanks again for sharing.

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  18. Over the last couple of years I’ve gone to sit with several people who are grieving and it seems to me that just physically being with them, keeping them company, encouraging them to talk (if they want to) about the person they have lost is the way we can stand alongside them best. I don’t know if I still feel grief as such over losing Pakistan, friendships, culture etc but I often find it difficult to be powerless to see my family whenever I miss them. I wonder if its larger than grief, more complex? I once heard someone say that as Christians we don’t do grief well… She talked of a friend who was dying – they purposefully wrote letters to her family together, they filmed her talking, they made special memories together, knowing what was to come. I think in the context of third culture kids, grieving like that could be a great way to weather it.

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    1. Yes – physical presence! It’s so huge and it can be so hard. I also agree that we (particularly we in the west I think) don’t do grief well. Being purposeful strikes me as so healthy and yet so hard.

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  19. Beautiful post, Marilyn, and so important. Thank you. It’s interesting how much the desert fathers and others (such as St John of the Ladder) talk about mourning. In a sense all of our grief and losses, large and small, are all part of the mourning for the loss of paradise, and therefore all are also coloured by our knowledge of the resurrection of all good. This is our ‘joyful sorrow’.

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    1. Thanks Andrew – I’ve done a lot of thinking about this joyful sorrow lately. Probably because of Pascha. Father Patrick said on Palm Sunday “We are caught between irrational joy and sorrow.” That’s it – the holy ache.

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  20. One thing I never really understood is that grief also isolates you. While other people can be with you, your grief really only belongs to you and you can only really deal with it on your own. Whereas it’s easy to share happiness, it’s much much harder to share grief.

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    1. So agree. And I don’t think there is any getting around it. Part of it is the vulnerability piece = many of us have been hurt when we shared our grief. As you said in your post – it’s not always ‘socially acceptable’ grief so when we are hurt the isolation increases ten fold.

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