The Greater the Love the Deeper the Grief

As a celebrant I also have the profound privilege to conducting funerals and memorial ceremonies.  This is a beautiful piece on grief by Julie Yarbrough.


The most fundamental truth of grief is this: we grieve because we love. Love and grief are inextricably linked. If we did not love, our hearts would not be broken by death. The greater our love, the deeper and more profound our grief.

Grief is the most equal-opportunity experience in all of life. It is the great leveler of emotions, place, and time. For at some age, at some time, everyone will know the sorrow and pain of grief. Grief is indifferent to our race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We’re not emotionally insulated from grief because of where we live, how educated we are, or how much money we have or don’t have. Grief doesn’t care whether we’re dressed in a business suit, a blue uniform, a hoodie, a tee shirt or a clergy robe.

The love of grief is passionate — we cherish and memorialize the one lost to us in death. We remember, and will never forget. The love of grief is compassionate — it reaches out, reconciles, restores and builds up. This love is why we endure the suffering of loss and persevere in hope. Despite every evidence to the contrary, love never fails.

When the reality of senseless violence and tragedy overwhelm our individual and collective hearts, grief leaves us reeling, especially as we struggle with the “why?” We want to make sense of it all, yet there are no real answers. What we experience instead is grief, the intuitive response of our mind, our body and our spirit to the death of one we love. And often we find within the love of our grief the best response to life’s worst tragedies. Without fully understanding the “why,” we seek some redemptive value, so that death will not have been in vain. We harness our grief-born love first to change our own heart, then slowly the world. And if not the whole world all at once, we start where we are to influence for good, trusting that our small ripple of love shared with others will one day become an exponential sea change.

If we scrutinize the faces of survivors, friends, colleagues, and loved ones photographed at their moment of most intense grief, we see clearly the inestimable shock and sorrow of personal, individual grief. When we read beyond the headlines, we’re reminded that each life has its own unique story and that the lives of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people — neighbors, school friends, church communities — are unalterably affected by the untimely death of one they know and love.

We are forever changed by death. Our experience of grief may leave us disillusioned, fearful, and hate-filled. Or grief may leave us convinced of the goodness of life with a greater capacity for love despite the certainty that evil is present in the world.

In the face of intentional violence and death, those of us who are helpless bystanders are forced to stretch, to think and feel beyond ourselves. And so we join hands and hearts with reverence for life and spiritual respect for the mystery of death to grieve in unison each individual soul — the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands and all other relationships of spirit and bond that connect us to one another as divinely created human beings.

Julie Yarbrough is the author of Beyond the Broken Heart, a grief ministry program, Grief Light, and other grief resources. Website: 

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses
of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Weight of Things Un-named

The Weight of Things Un-named (on where to go with the heavy things)

by joelmckerrow

Joel McKerrow is a perfomance poet and brilliant word smith.  Joel wrote this article for his blog onefootintheclay and you can follow him on his blog or on Face Book 

“Pain too is a baptism.
Perhaps in the end they are one and the same sacrament–
A Dying,
a drowning,
a beginning again.”

My friend had twins in 2015, one of them drastically sick. She has spent most of his five months with him in hospital. On New Year’s day he stopped breathing. The ambulance came, rushed him again to the hospital. I do not know what will happen with the little boy. Neither does she. What a way to start the new year. She told me that it is, “hard to know where to go with these experiences”. I wholeheartedly agreed. No words.

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These things too heavy for the naming, what do we do with them? Where do we go when the loss comes? When our shoulders bow under its weight?

Another friend lost her daughter twenty five years ago. She still carries around her absence. It has become more familiar to her than her presence. My parents lost two children, twins, right after they were born. It is not something we talked about growing up. Too heavy. I shall never forget the phone call to tell me that one of my high-school sweethearts, only a few months before her wedding, had suddenly and inexplicably died in the night. I was a wedding photographer back then, had three weddings to shoot that week, the camera, it was the heaviest that it has ever been.

And I am not just speaking of death. There are other things too heavy for the naming. Like touch unwanted. Like keeping his secret. Like blade on wrist on tiled floor. Like slamming the door. Like the drop of your stomach when you have been found out. Like the drop of your stomach when you find them out. Like the silent emptiness that fills a space once all the people and the laughter have left. Like the crippling feeling that no matter what you do it is never enough. Like the loneliness that comes after a night on social media. Like bruised eye hidden under dark glasses. These things too are a loss and a grieving and most often we do not have the language to speak of them. So where do we go with them? The unspeakable things. Where do we take them?

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Usually I run to the water. Moving water. When nothing makes sense anymore I turn to the ocean and to the river. I have found that grief is a grindstone and so is the ocean. They break us apart, they rough away the sharp and the piercing. They smooth us out, even as we hide in their depths. When a child dies those who are left behind are forever scraped across the rocks of their despair. When any un-named weight falls heavy upon you, it is always the same. No words. Grief.

So I let myself sink under the water and stretch out my lungs beneath the spray. A surrender. Let myself be smashed. The wave that breaks and turns and tosses and smooths me down. The grindstone of grief. On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Sea-glass green. Pain too is a baptism. Perhaps, in the end, they are the one and same sacrament. Pain and baptism. They are both a loss of breath and a coming home to the depth. A dying, a drowning, a beginning again. The ocean decides when she is finished with us. She gives us back to the world of men. On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Smashed now being made smooth.

And I am not saying that this is the answer or the cure, to place yourself in running water. I am not saying that there is an answer or a cure. As much as we demand such. What I am saying is that the swirling ocean is as good a place to hide as any. To hide like grain of sand, like the smashed glass. What I am saying is that the only place of healing I have found is the unfolding of oneself into the arms of something much larger than oneself. A surrender.

Some say we should turn to God in such moments of despair. And I guess this is my way of doing so. The ocean. God. Enfolding my own story of that which cannot be named into the hands of some larger story. Weight held by weight. Like my son holds his hand in my hand. I do not know what this looks like for you. I do not claim to know where you should go with these experiences, this weight. I only know my own attempts to pry gripping fingers away that I might be able to let something out into the ocean. To not hold the grief back. To give myself to the waters of surrender that they might someday smooth me out.


On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Shattered glass turned sea-glass green. Hold it in your hand. You hold what was, what is, what ever could be. You hold it all in this moment. It still doesn’t make sense. But you no longer need it to do so. It still hurts, it always will. It is still heavy. The weight of things un-named. But somehow it becomes just light enough to keep on walking.


From a young age we see around us that grief is mostly an affliction, a misery that intrudes into the life we deserve, a rupture of the natural order of things, a trauma that we need coping and management and five stages and twelve steps to get over.

Here’s the revolution: What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Grief and the love of life are twins, natural human skills that can be learned first by being on the receiving end and feeling worthy of them, later by practicing them when you run short of understanding. In a time like ours, grieving is a subversive act. — Stephen Jenkinson, from Way of Grief