Grief: Its Imprint

Grief: Its Imprint

If you find yourself at a phase in your life where grief is your appropriate response to loss, and grief, therefore, is the predominate occupier of your mind and heart, I think it would be helpful to dig deep into a meaning of grief that you won’t find in the dictionary.  Understanding this meaning can be a vital element in your grief journey, as well as a significant facilitator of your willingness and ability to move forward.

Let us explore together, over the next several days, what I consider to be a noteworthy, deeper and more profound meaning of grief:

Grief is the life-altering anguish that permeates one’s being as a result of profound loss, its potential for imprint ranging from anger, bitterness, and resentment to anticipation, benevolence, and renewal, with the difference in outcome resting on the degree to which the sufferer seeks God’s solace, and relies on Him to transform fear and floundering into faith, fruitfulness, and flourishing.   Karen Johnston Neal© 2010

In examining a definition for grief that goes beyond the dictionary version, the first phrase that requires our attention is “life-altering anguish.”  

Depending on what you have lost to this point, your grief may not be deep enough to be called “anguish”, because your loss was not intense, acute, or overpowering enough to be called “profound.  However, if you are honest enough to identify and confront the many losses you’ve experienced throughout your life, and if you’re brave enough to face their devastation cumulatively, you will find them to be most profound, deserving of a depth of grief called anguish.  If you have suffered the loss of a Loved One, you don’t need any loss added to this one to understand the meanings of “profound” and “anguish.”  But the most important part of this concept of anguish is the adjective in front of it—“life-altering”.  This says that if your loss is profound enough, your response is anguish, and anguish, also known as suffering, torment, agony, and grief, is a life-altering experience. 

Grief is the life-altering anguish that permeates one’s being as a result of profound loss, its potential for imprint ranging from anger, bitterness, and resentment to anticipation, benevolence, and renewal, with the difference in outcome resting on the degree to which the sufferer seeks God’s solace, and relies on Him to transform fear and floundering into faith, fruitfulness, and flourishing.   Karen Johnston Neal© 2010

In the grief transition curriculum I developed called After “Good-bye”, I always inform my clients that they will be changed by their grief in one way or another, either positively or negatively, with or without their consent. That is an inescapable fact.  Anguish will always leave its imprint. As evident as a footprint in the sand, anguish will always leave its imprint. 

What is the difference between an impact and an imprint?  When something has an impact on you, it has an effect, an influence.  It can be a temporary or permanent influence, a minor or a major one, of which you may or may not be cognizant, although those closest to you most certainly will be.  An imprint, on the other hand, is permanent.  It marks you. For good or bad, it is always with you.  It is noticeable to you and to others.  It alters the impression you make on your world and the lens through which you view the world and navigate life.

For any experience to have the impact of an imprint, it must “permeate.”  This means that your anguish pervades your being; it infuses, saturates, and penetrates your every feeling, every thought, every action, idea, and effort.  You know without a doubt that it is becoming the most dominant characteristic of your life. Your anguish is taking over who you are.  And that is dangerous territory.

 (to be continued)

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