What is Good Grief?

“Good grief” sounds like an oxymoron – two contrasting ideas that don’t seem to fit together. But when we look deeper, grief is a process we enter into when we experience a loss in our lives so it makes sense to make it as “good” or “beneficial” as possible.   

Grief is: “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”  The journey we take as we work through the emotions associated with loss and sorrow is called the grief cycle.

 “Good grief” includes:

  • Traveling through the grief cycle without getting stuck or stalled.
  • Embracing the messiness and range of emotions during loss and recovery.
  • Leaning into the pain of loss and learning more about yourself and others. 

Where did this grief cycle come from?  Several years ago, people with terminal illnesses were an embarrassment for doctors. Those patients who could not be cured exposed the doctors’ weakness and caused the doctors to shun the dying since there was nothing more they could do to help.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a doctor in Switzerland, challenged this unkindness and spent a lot of time with dying people, both comforting and studying them. She wrote a book, called On Death and Dying which included a cycle of emotional states sometimes referred to as the grief cycle.

As time went on, it was noticed that this emotional cycle was not just experienced by the dying, but also by people affected by bad news, such as losing their jobs or some other negative change or loss. If people perceived their loss as negative, some level of grief occured.

Our accident and the recovery process created an opportunity for “good grief” and a chance to embrace the wide range of emotions associated with our adversity and loss.

What are the emotional states in “good grief”?

  • Denial or shock – avoidance, confusion, fear, blame
  • Anger – frustration, anxiety, irritation, shame
  • Depression – detachment, blahs, lack of energy, helplessness
  • Bargaining – dialogue, reaching out to others, desire to tell your story
  • Acceptance – exploring options, a new plan

What can help keep you moving as your travel this rocky “good grief” road (some that have worked for me):

  • Be brutally honest with yourself
    He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it. Turkish Proverb
  • Share your pain with trustworthy friends
    Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief. French Proverb
  • Be open to learn as much as you can
    Those things that hurt, instruct.  Benjamin Franklin
  • Pray the Psalms
    “…we went through fire and water, but You brought us to a place of abundance” Psalms 66:12.
  • Be patient and take the necessary time to heal
    Grief makes one hour ten.  Shakespeare
  • Look for a greater purpose
    Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. – Viktor E. Frankl
  • Cry as much as necessary
    But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Viktor Frankl

What in your experience has helped you experience “good grief”? What has kept you stuck?


About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, Change, Frankl, Grief cycle, healing, learning, purpose, suffering and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What is Good Grief?

  1. Kathy Pearson says:

    Cam, I am really appreciating your blog. Jay died April 27, and I definitely recognize and am experiencing the cycle you describe. The quotes you’ve chosen are excellent. Kathy Pearson

  2. Bob Utsurogi says:

    Hey Cam…great stuff.

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