What is the Goal of Grief?

In our goal-oriented society, we want to finish grief, check the boxes on grief stages and cross the finish line. We think that grief ends and that a full-recovery is the norm.

If you’ve paid attention to the evolution in grief-theory, you know the problems with those expectations: 1) the 5 stages don’t apply to grief and are not representative of grief experiences (these stages were created by Kübler-Ross as she studied the ways terminally ill patients dealt with their diagnosis – not active grievers) and 2) we shouldn’t expect to ever be “done” grieving. Experienced grievers know that full-recovery is not possible and in fact, over time, not wanted. Grief becomes a part of us that we learn to live in partnership with.

So what is a realistic goal of grief?

Expect that grief will change you.

Grief is a transformative process.

  1. Your daily life is dramatically effected in simple circumstantial ways.

Perhaps you’re now sleeping alone for the first time in decades, maybe the cook in your family is the one that died and now you don’t know what to eat, or the person you spoke with on the phone almost everyday is now gone and you don’t know who to talk to.

  • These are immediate ways that death completely changes the landscape of a life and painfully forces frequent confrontation with the loss.


  1. Your future life looks completely different.

The trip next month is no longer happening – you don’t want to go alone. The support you thought you’d have around you as you aged now feels painfully lacking. The family vacation will never be the same.

  • These are the anticipated ways that grief continues to roll out in front of you effecting you and others beyond your afternoon.


  1. Your interior life is in painful and unfamiliar.

The worries you had last week about what to have for dinner and when to wash the car feel unimaginable and trivial. The pain of loss is everywhere and the big-picture-problems and priorities of the world feel crystal clear. Our thoughts and actions change because we have changed.

  • Loss brings with it huge shifts in perspective and often opens us up to a vastly greater capacity for empathy.


So, what does grief accomplish and what should we expect from it?

  • Expect and welcome (as you are able) the change that is coming.
  • Know that “recovery” isn’t coming, but that learning to live with the loss is already actively happening.
  • Our grief takes us on highs and lows – we encounter great pain and great empathy, tremendous love and tremendous sorrow. Finding the middle ground is the process of healing and living in the balance between love and loss.

What has your grief taught you? How have you experienced transformation?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

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