• Rhyena Halpern

Is Grief Optional?  Is it Love with No Place to Go?



When my mom died 5 years ago exactly, at the age of 94, she gave me one last surprise gift. It was liberation from the agonizing, painful, suffering of grief I had experienced when other people I had loved died.


My mom and I had shared the gift of time; time to say goodbye, time to express our love, time to take care of unfinished business, time to talk about her dying.


Unbeknownst to me, that readiness, that sense of completion, impacted me in an amazing way after her death. I felt an amazing peacefulness, acceptance and deep, sweet, sometimes bittersweet love. I felt profoundly grateful to her and how she embraced her death.


As a daughter, an End of Life Doula and hospice volunteer, and a human being who has experienced a fair amount of death, I think a lot about the topic of grief. I notice that people seem to fear experiencing grief for a loved one almost as much as they fear death itself.


Does it have to be this way?


 The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.         -Thornton Wilder

I have this crazy idea that grief is just love with no physical place to go.


The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective. — James Patterson 

If we embrace death as a part of life, would we live more fully?


Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things. -Arthur Schopenhauer

I feel my dead peeps close to me. My mom, Barb, Bert, Jeremy, Shauna, Michelle, Seth, Bette, Bob, Rob, Elsie, Irv, Mike, Sol, Fanny, Ellen, Burt, I hold you all close to my heart.


Death ends a life, not a relationship. -Robert Benchley

Holding them close this way, gives me more room to hold my living loved ones. It is mysterious but it is true.


But you can begin to embrace life again, to feel alive again. … You can remember the loss without being caught up in a stranglehold of grief. You can move forward without abandoning those you love. — Frank Ostaseski

If I open myself open to grief, if I get curious about the grief, if I welcome it as a teacher, I know I will experience grace.


And you find your way in life without them in physical form. With awareness, the journey through grief becomes a path to wholeness. We are more than the grief; we are what the grief is moving through; we give ourselves to life.
We don’t get past our pain. We go through it and are transformed by it. You can’t go back to life as it was before because you are a different person now, changed by your journey through grief.             — Frank Ostaseski

If grief is just love, then by this point in our lives, by our senior years, we have experienced a lot of love. I have experienced ravaging grief, numb grief, and the fatigue of longing.


Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in life’s search for love and wisdom. -Rumi

I received the gift of loss as deep love.


This lesson truly makes finding our way, building our new life without them, so much easier.


We are changed forever, yes. We are fully alive too and embrace life.


We love with everything we’ve got. The grief moves through us and we are again whole.


Thanks, Mom, for this final, amazing, generous gift.

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