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How to Process Grief and Pain

Susan Gammage | Jan 9, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Susan Gammage | Jan 9, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

As someone recovering from a childhood of incest and other forms of abuse, I’ve been taught that it’s OK to cry.  

I’ve learned that stuffing feelings of grief from the loss of innocence, and the betrayals of those who were supposed to protect me, keeps me from moving forward. My therapy and recovery programs have emphasized encouraging grief, and that all made sense to me.

RELATED: Why Am I in So Much Pain – and What Can I Do to Stop It?

Until, in my daily readings this morning, I came across this reading from Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, whose teachings I trust implicitly. Baha’u’llah wroteBeware, lest thou allow anything whatsoever to grieve thee.

Hmmmm! Don’t let anything grieve me? Impossible!, I thought.  

This morning I read about yet another injustice in the world – and I can’t bear it! The oneness I feel with my brothers and sisters all over the world, people I’ve never even met, causes my empathy and compassion and tender-heartedness to go into overdrive.  

As a result, I feel sad constantly, and some days it’s really hard to shake. There have been some times in life when the grief has been so severe, that I’ve been clinically depressed for several years.  

I thought about the worst thing a person might grieve – the death of someone close to them – and again, Baha’u’llah tells us in his book The Hidden Words that “I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve?

So we can’t even grieve that?!? Then what are we supposed to do with our grief?, I wondered.

I decided to do some further reading on this topic, and I found that Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, Abdul-Baha, said something similar using a beautiful metaphor:

When the winds blow severely, rains fall fiercely, the lightning flashes, the thunder roars, the bolt descends and storms of trial become severe, grieve not; for after this storm, verily, the divine spring will arrive, the hills and fields will become verdant, the expanses of grain will joyfully wave, the earth will become covered with blossoms, the trees will be clothed with green garments and adorned with blossoms and fruits. Thus blessings become manifest in all countries. These favors are results of those storms and hurricanes.

The discerning man rejoiceth at the day of trials, his breast becometh dilated at the time of severe storms, his eyes become brightened when seeing the showers of rain and gusts of wind, whereby trees are uprooted; because he foreseeth the result and the end, the leaves, blossoms and fruits …

Rejoice? Wow!, I thought. The standards keep getting higher and higher. Fortunately, there are some benefits – God draws us close to Him when we strive to have the right attitude of prayerfulness and patience. I can turn to God in prayer when I’m grieving, because fortunately, through all the struggles in my life, I still believe in a compassionate, all-loving God, even when bad things happen to good people. 

RELATED: Why We Suffer: Nothing Worth Doing Is Easy

Not everyone can do that – so what are they to do?

In a talk to a visitor from Germany, Abdu’l-Baha is reported to have said:

Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you – and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.

So it seems that one of the best ways to process grief is to go help someone else. That’s something we all can do.

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Comments

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  • Homayoun Khozouei
    Jan 9, 2023
    -
    We should not forget that another teaching of the Bahai Faith is the harmony between science and religion and the recommendation is that we should consult with expert physician, when necessary, which means to seek and apply what science has to offer too. Remember the recommendation of Abdu'l-Baha to the cook who burned the food was instead of praying so much you should have read a cookbook. The best actions: seek the advice of the expert in the field and pray too!
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