Facing Grief, Unflinchingly.

What is a good metaphor, or simile, for grief?

Grief is powerful and inevitable. It occurs to all of us. It can be disabling.  It can feel like a tsunami – an unimaginably powerful force overtaking and smothering every other aspect of… reality.  Grief can feel like a magnet – one occurrence of grief becoming a magnet for every other possible grief response we might have imagined, but never did, and so when a knife-like grief experience occurs, suddenly…. other grief responses are invited into spaces that existed before… but now those spaces also have the added burden of grief.

So what are good similes or metaphors for grief, I ask my writing community? Please! I want to know! Comment on this post, or create a post of your own that links to your personal website. Please.  Similes and metaphors are powerful tools in writers’ toolboxes for dealing with…  and shaping… grief.  (And also other powerful life experiences.)

Many of us know the power, value, and utility of simile and metaphor.

Simile is saying something “is like” something else.

Metaphor is saying something IS (identity-like) something else. A bit more powerful and abstract than simile.

Similes AND metaphors have their place and their usefulness as we understand our human experience.

So what are the metaphors (or similes) for grief?

Grief is like the rogue wave, unexpectedly roaring in and covering, maybe obliterating, everything in its path. (That is a simile.)

Grief is a cranky bitch. (That is a metaphor – the “is,” construction, not the “is like” construction.) But this statement invites questions about the meaning of “cranky” and the meaning of “bitch.” I will not expend my own life force on explaining this metaphor at this time. But let me know in a comment if the metaphor intrigues you.

So I return to my original question: what is a good metaphor, or a good simile, for grief?  Because metaphors and similes allow us room, and space, and vocabulary, with which to deconstruct and understand life experiences that otherwise would be…. obliterating of our own lives, or of the meaning of our own lives.

We grieve all kinds of losses.

We grieve the loss of the heart-beating lives experienced by people we know and love, even when the ending of that life is a loss more to “us” than to the person who lived that life.

We grieve the loss of… jobs… marriages…. friendships… tomato plants that did not thrive in clay soil.

Like many people, I retreat from the nearly overwhelming, death-dealing, breath-squeezing, reality of authentic grief to the….. safer… less breath-squeezing level of… humor.

I feel, in this moment, when asking for a simile or metaphor for grief…. that I would like to know: “I do not know what I am talking about; do you know what I am talking about?”  (That statement/question is my idea of humor.)

My beloved and respected writing friends’ authentic wisdom about grief is invited. We all experience grief. May our collective and caring words about grief serve to increase compassion in the world. And thereby change the world and the future of humanity.

3 thoughts on “Facing Grief, Unflinchingly.

  1. Grief. I’ve certainly felt it. Grief is one of the most intense emotions I’ve ever felt. Perhaps it is THE most intense.

    I don’t think of grief as “cranky,” but more as a deep yearning for a severe loss I’m not yet ready to fully understand and accept till I’m done crying & grieving. In our culture, and in many others, grief is something to nod at & then move quickly through without much ado, or you do in private with discretion. In other cultures, grief is repressed with stony expressions as life is hard and one must be tough to survive. In yet other cultures people fling themselves down on the ground as they collapse and wail and beat themselves to physically feel the bloody slap of such a painful and savage loss. Some people grieve so deeply they fling themselves into the embrace of the Grim Reaper in a desperate act to rejoin someone already gone.

    In some of the Buddhist Ways I’ve encountered there are Dharma trainings, practices similar to what I experienced in the Landmark Forum, trainings I’m not all that good at, mind you, that allow me to be with grief without getting lost in it, to recognize grief, to recognize the pain is the pain my mind makes up about whatever is felt “missing,” often something or someone in the past, but in being in the present moment it becomes much easier to allow the shock waves of grief emotion to course through me without the jolting of knives and hatchets gutting out my soul.

    Thank you, Liz, for the courage to listen to Grief.


  2. Last Friday, i went and saw, it is and okay movie but it had a very telling line for me, being a poor battler of grief currently. Shortly after the king lost his wife, the following voice over got said.

    “Taking advantage of his grief, a dark and mysterious army appeared and lured him into battle.”

    Why is it that people dealing with grief are so much more likely to be lured into battle? The sad thing is, the grieving person is often weak and they are being lured into a certain loss it their battle. Sad but true.

    It does not have to be that way, though. The Amber Alert, born out of grief is an example of great good coming from a grief filled situation. The challenge to me, and all people, for that matter, is to somehow make good out of a grief filled situation. This is no doubt difficult, but a worthy goal.

  3. William and Stephen – thank you for the wise and formative words on this important subject. It IS something we all deal with at different times in different circumstances, and so all these thoughtful ideas benefit anyone who might read this read, I think. Thank you.

    Stephen, I think I am overlooking the “name” of a movie that sheds some light on this landscape of grief. Could you provide the name of the movie? Thanks! Intrigued!

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