No grief is more important or challenging than any other. We all grieve differently. As a grief expert, I often encounter those who are troubled by their own grieving. They say they just can't hold it together, so I ask what they think grieving should look like. Many times they share that Jackie Kennedy at JFK's funeral is their model. Stoic, no tears and silent courage.
Then I ask how that is working for them. They typically share that they wish they could emulate Jackie, but they can't.
I get it. That one period of time captured on TV is what some of us think "good grief" or 'grieving well" looks like.
Here's what many people don't realize. The image we saw of the much loved first lady was only a small part of her grief. There was so much more to the story. Her grief and her love did not end with what we saw on TV.
We often see her as a public figure and forget that she was a victim of a crime. We forget that mourning is what we do on the outside and grieving is what we do on the inside. Privately, Jackie had overwhelming feelings and many tears. She saw a therapist.
Today, more than ever, public figures influence our style, speech and even how we grieve. That's why, as we begin 2016, I would like to acknowledge some of those who recently showed us their authentic mourning and grief publicly. However, I want to be clear--their grief is not any more important than anyone else's grief. My hope is that reading this blog will inspire you to think of those who have grieved in your own life.
- Sheryl Sandberg: After Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly at just 47, she went public with her grief on Facebook. In a raw and moving post, she shared painful moments over the first 30 days of her loss, advice that helped, her definition of real empathy, how she felt about receiving help and her gratitude. That window into her soul opened up a worldwide dialogue.
- Kathie Lee Gifford: When Kathie Lee Gifford's husband, Frank Gifford, died suddenly, she openly shared how her faith carried her through her grief. Choked up and real as always, she showed us her humanity and allowed everyone to grieve with her. Then, the family went on to make the difficult decision to have Frank's brain studied. The autopsy revealed that Frank had suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The family decided to publicly disclose his condition in order to help his fellow players in the game he loved.
- Joe Biden: Often men in particular feel the need to be stoic in the face of grief, but our Vice President painted a very different picture of strength after his eldest son, Beau Biden, passed away from brain cancer at only 46. We watched him hold his widowed daughter-in-law tight and tearfully accept condolences. Instead of hiding his feelings, he was clear about making space for his grief and the grief of his family. He also was vocal about the need to be resilient.
Grief must be witnessed. These three modeled that even though life does end, our love does not. They have shown us that life continues after loss. There are many others that could I could have mentioned and countless people in our families who have died. I hope you will turn to your loved ones right now and acknowledge all that they have dealt with in loss. Notice their courage, their authenticity and witness their grief. They too have modeled for us so that we can all live to the fullest in 2016.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at email@example.com.
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