Good Grief

ohgoodgriefIt was always cute when Charlie Brown said it. Albeit in an exasperated sort of way. Maybe Lucy had just snatched the football away again. Perhaps Snoopy had taken on his Joe Cool alter ego. But whenever Charlie Brown was fed up, disgruntled or had it up to here (which, for him, is the curly cue of hair on his forehead) he would sigh and offer his all-purpose phrase.

The phrase itself seems harmless, carrying little more hostility than my go-to, “For crying out loud!”

Yet both are what’s known as minced oaths, a euphemism to avoid swearing. Specifically, to avoid breaking the third commandment. Because that’s what these phrases are. A veiled way to sanitize an expression that “takes the Lord’s name in vain.”

My “For crying out loud” is a sterilized version of “For Christ’s sake,” just as the innocuous “Gosh!” is an indirect way of saying “God” while Charlie Brown is actually saying, “Good God!”

Minced oaths aside, “good grief” seems almost as oxymoronic as “pretty ugly.” Yet the process of grieving is vital when reacting to and moving through pain and disappointment. When those disappointments include life-and-death pain, it becomes life-and-death necessary to grieve.

To deny the process of grieving serves not only to delay it but to prolong it. It’s like any open wound. Depending on the severity, grief can be deferred but it won’t be ignored and in some cases, it will get worse. Getting an infection in a cut on your finger hurts. Left untreated, all kinds of consequences can happen, from pain and infection to disability and amputation.

An “infection” of grief is usually infinitely more painful. Grief that is unrecognized and/or unresolved creates a systemic emotional toxin that can and eventually will affect every single aspect of life. Accepting the fact that grief is as necessary as breathing is the only way to begin the process of lasting healing.


That is the good in grief. It’s just that the good is mixed in – one tiny shard at a time – with all the other facets of grief. If grief is the haystack, good is the needle. It can be found, but first you must sort through all the tiny, individual pieces of grief. Pick them up one at a time, examine them, set them aside and then move on to the next.

Hint: the needle is always, always, always at the end. Gosh darnit.

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