• Neva Bryan

The insufficient language of grief


If you search “grief is like” on the internet, you’ll find some curious descriptions.


“Grief is like wearing a heavy coat with all of the pockets full of rocks.” Pat Schwiebert, griefwatch.com


“Grief is like walking through hip-high mud.” Loretta, whatsyourgrief.com


“Grief is like riding a roller coaster.” Jill Carbone, everydays.com


“Grief felt like I was in danger.” Dushka Zapata, quora.com


“Grief is like a knot in a tree.” Wanda Luthman, wandaluthman.wordpress.com


In my own experience, I’ve described grief this way: I feel like I’ve been pulled out of my own story and dropped into someone else’s. I don’t know how it’s going to end.


Why do so many people use figurative language to talk about grief?


I believe it’s because single words such as “sad” or “depressed” or "angry" or "lost" can’t convey the depth and breadth of the emotions we feel when we grieve.


Simple words are insufficient, so we try to paint a picture of our grief. Others may “see” that picture and subsequently understand, in some small way, our pain.


Have you found yourself describing grief with a simile or some other figurative language?


What is grief like for you?

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