07/17/2014 03:35 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2014

Do You Have to Be Reasonable When You're Grieving?

I'm a writer. I fill the Internet with words on grief and love. I do this even as I know that words can never express the true reality of grief. No matter how beautifully or eloquently I may write, those words only gesture towards what is deeper than words.

I write, knowing that before and inside and beneath all those words, there is only howling. The howling is what's true. Everything else is at least one step removed. Everything else is intellect. It's not what's real.

I was at a conference recently. A perfectly reasonable conference on death, dying, and grief. A perfectly reasonable conference.

And I kept thinking, this isn't how grief is. Grief is not perfectly reasonable.

So many teachings -- books, conferences, clinical theories -- speak of grief as though it is something to be managed, as if grief could be held in place by the right set of rules, as if behaving reasonably would get you through that whole uncomfortable process more quickly.

Is there anywhere, anyone, any place where the howling, visceral reality of ripped open love and grief and life are, well, let out? Do we all just have to be reasonable?

Does everything have to fit into neat and tidy stages, publicly acceptable and clinically sound?

I remember my own early days -- shoving myself out into the world, frazzled hair, sunken cheeks, mismatched clothes, looking for all the world like a homeless woman, babbling on to myself. Trying to keep moving. Doing what was reasonable, expected, ordinary: groceries, dog walks, meeting friends for lunch.

When beside me, inside me, was the howling, shrieking, screaming mass of pain, watching this normal and ordinary person, being reasonable. Ordinary. As though anything was okay. As though I was not living what I lived.

I could pretend, but that pretending cost me. I could be reasonable, but telling that lie was exhausting.

Now, when I read about grief, when I attend conferences that talk about grief, I think about those early days. I think about being reasonable. I think of how ridiculous that is.

How irrelevant it is to talk about grief as though it were an intellectual exercise.

The intelligence that arranges words and dictates stages or steps or reasonable behavior is on a wholly different plane than the heart that is newly smashed open.

Grief is visceral, not reasonable: The howling at the center is raw and real. It is love in its most wild form.

Tell me, where are the conferences that talk about that? What would it even look like, to engage with that wild place?

2014-07-16-kalimatthiasrosenkranz.jpg photo by Matthias Rosenkranz, creative commons license

That wildness -- it crouches in the corners of the reasonable world, smirking in the background at the perfect erudition of the professor or the author or the neighbor down the street as they describe aseptic and linear grief. It is far smarter than reason.

Does that wildness have a voice beyond the howling? Can we listen for the words that form inside the unreasonable, the unable-to-reason? How do we speak to that unspeakable part, the wildness of the unreasonable heart?

Maybe language is a bridge. Words that come from the wildness, rooted in that deep un-tame-able place, words that speak to what is there, humming underneath the ordinary surface of life. Words that kick over the suitable, reasonable, erudite world. Those words connect us, beyond reason.

Words, those too small tools, those broken syllables, point to the presence of wildness and say -- yes.

Yes. I see you there.

I see you, and I hear your voice.


How about you? What words might point to the deeper realities of love and of loss? Join our growing group of writers exploring that territory in the new session of the Writing Your Grief e-course. Wild, un-tame-able, searching for words: we'd love to have you. Read all about the course here.

Megan Devine is a writer, grief advocate, and clinical counselor. Her partner drowned on a beautiful, ordinary, fine summer day, and she's stayed alive after that.

Megan is the author of the audio program When Everything is Not Okay: Practical Tools to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. Roughly every six weeks or so, she hosts a 30-day online community of writers and grievers in the Writing Your Grief e-course; click on the link to join the next session.

If you want to talk about your grief, you can even pick a time on her calendar for a free 30 minute phone call. Ongoing grief support is also available.

You can find all of this, plus weekly posts, resources, and the weekly letter, on her website.

Join the Refuge in Grief community on facebook here.

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