Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Grief As A Symbol For Love
Of all the ways we have tried to help grievers bear up under the weight of loss there is one idea that has consistently been the most effective. This idea doesn’t change anything about the grief experience as such except for perception, so we suppose it could be categorized as cognitive behavioral. Though nothing about the concrete situation changes, the perceptual shift changes everything, as is so often the case with cognitive behavioral interventions. It helps people courageously move forward with their lives by instilling a new sense of meaning into their painful feelings.
The idea can be boiled down to grief as a symbol for love. Little love, little grief. Big love, big grief. When we don’t really care about somebody then we aren’t really affected when they exit our lives forever. Conversely when we care deeply about somebody we’re deeply affected when they exit out lives forever. In this sense boundless grief is a testament to the boundless love we have for the person who has been lost to us. It’s a badge we can proudly wear that signifies the profound impact this person has exerted on us. And this impact will continue to ripple outwards through our own thoughts, words, and actions.
Suddenly those terrible, previously unwanted feelings of grief take on new meaning. They become wanted because of what they signify. Since we can’t have the person back, the only theoretical choice is between having the feelings or not having the feelings. If we didn’t have them it would mean we didn’t care all that much about our loss.
At some point each and every one of us will die a biological death, which means that we’re all counting on those we care about and who care about us to take care of our continuation. When we’re deeply, boundlessly affected by the loss of a loved one this is a proof of their continuation in us. We can only hope that we live in such a way that others are similarly affected when our time has come. When we think about the problem of grief in these terms it becomes obvious, like we said above, that those painful feelings of grief are wanted friends not feared adversaries since what they really signify are the boundless love we will always have for the person who has been lost to us and the continuation of this person within us.