Grief to Purpose

Exploring our choice of words...

The verb grieve means to feel intense sorrow, to suffer. People who are grieving often endure the pain of sorrow alone and in silence.

To mourn, by contrast, is to show sorrow outwardly, to display sadness in the context of community. Depending on cultural conventions, there is often a period of time during which mourning is expected.

Unlike mourning, the time needed to grieve depends on the person and the situation. There is no timer that marks when to “get over it” or to “move on.”

The sadness felt when grieving or mourning is often tied to sorrow caused by a death.

But grieving and mourning can also be related to the loss or disappearance of something like a relationship or health. Grief can be tied to life events that cause feelings of failure and or rejection.

The trigger of grief can be a sudden, like a traumatic accident, or it can creep up over time, one painful day following another.

The noun grief, as we will use it in Stardust’s Spiritual Alchemy community, is the keen mental suffering or distress over loss. It is sharp and sorrowful and painful. Grief is tied to regret, disappointment, and heartache, and the feeling that something was unjust or unfair. If we’re honest with ourselves, many times—whether we’re faced with the death of a friend or loved one, or the loss of a relationship or job—we harbor feelings of resentment and disappointment. We take on the role of victim.


“How could this have happened to me?”

“What am I supposed to do now?”


Associating grief with disappointment, regret, and adversity requires another person to make you feel a certain way. For example, you cannot feel attacked or ashamed by yourself. These emotions do not arise from you but from your response to another.

Regardless of the trigger, there’s a period of disorientation and wandering through the life in the fog of grief. There are no visible, outward, obvious scars or wounds. In terms of emergency triage, those grieving are in the category of the walking wounded—conscious and breathing.

When you are unable to move out of that grieving space, life is a challenge. Sometimes you may just feel stuck.

But there’s a point, a very critical point, when you realize that you had enough of grief and you need more. One day you consider a different perspective and it occurs to you that you want to transform your mindset and outlook.

When you want your life to have meaning.

To have purpose.
After despair, many hopes flourish.
Just as after darkness, Thousands of Suns
open and start to shine.
– Rumi

Purpose and meaning require action, which can vary from the quiet mental decision to make a change to the physical act of getting up off the couch to engage with the world. Meaning and purpose align with intention and gratitude… and together they tie to a sense of happiness, to belonging, and to positivity.

Human warmth and compassion, deepening our connection to others, in the face of suffering brings meaning and purpose.

Freedom from suffering starts with accepting suffering as a natural part of the human experience, and then courageously, mindfully facing our problems head-on. If you directly confront your suffering, you’ll be in a better position to appreciate the depth and nature of the problem.

In a battle, if you remain ignorant of the status and combat readiness of your enemy, you will be totally unprepared and paralyzed by fear. However, if you know the fighting capacity of your opponents, then you’re in a much better position when you engage in war.

In the same way, rather than avoid them, if  you mindfully confront the emotions and feelings tied to your grief—the sense of rejection, loss, failure, abandonment—you will be in a better position to deal with them.


Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter
rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can this be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
Joy and sorrow are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits
alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

– Kahlil Gibran


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