I don't know what grief feels like to other people, but this is what it means to me. Grief is painful. Grief is also like a faucet in the 'on' position that allows the pain to flow away. Eventually the pain is replaced with peace. It is normal (and healthy) to grieve any time we lose something or someone. Losing someone may even mean that they still live with you, but because of illness or emotional issues you have momentarily lost the loved one as you had previously known them. Grief is normal. Hello, healthy one.
Sometimes grief is like a little 'sigh'. We recall a loss, take a deep breath and sigh, as we let go of that moment of sadness, that lost person or thing, and we think, "Oh, well..."
Other times grief is like a HUGE sledgehammer that hits you in the stomach and you hurt from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It might feel painful like that for a day, weeks, or even just a few minutes. For some it might last for years. And grief is relative. Someone who loses a beloved pet can hurt just as much as someone whose parents have just divorced. Someone who is sad over a child who is struggling can hurt just as much as someone who has to give up a favorite hobby because of chronic illness. Someone who has just lost a child to death is something I can't seem to compare with any other loss, however. Yet, I've learned to never think that one person's loss is bigger than another's. If you hurt, you hurt.
Grief can revisit you at unexpected moments many, many years after your loss. Losing my father to suicide 40 years ago wasn't just a feel-sad-for-a-day sort of event. I was only six years old, but through the years as I've learned about life, witnessed my husband interacting with children of our own, and observed other families with fathers, I've had many of those unexpected moments of grief. I would suddenly notice that other's had someone I didn't have much experience with. A father. Yet I have also had many, many moments of exquisite joy and gratitude at knowing my children have a loving father. Ultimately I have come to realize how meaningful and essential it is to love our most important father ~ God, the Father of all Fathers.
I think grief is like a grab-bag. You never know what you're going to get.
Sometimes you get to learn compassion. You start noticing that most everyone has lost someone or something.
Sometimes you get to learn what the word agony means, because you have felt it. Then you are able to fully appreciate its opposite: true joy.
Sometimes you get to learn about love when you notice how richly blessed you are ~ when you focus on how much you HAVE instead of what you've lost.
Other times you get to learn about humor and delight as you recall a funny memory.
Mostly, you get to learn that grief can eventually be handed over to God, because Christ already suffered for ALL pain such as guilt, remorse, and suffering. This includes GRIEF. I think when we all get to the point where we want some sort of healing, that there is a way to be healed. True healing comes to our minds, spirits, and sometimes even our bodies, God willing. Spending the time to learn and pray about Christ's atonement is the answer to true healing. And Christ's atonement is also the key when we need some sort of peacefulness in our hearts and minds to push out painful feelings of grief that are just staying around too long.
We can learn a LOT from grief. We can also learn a LOT when we get to the point of letting it go, and handing it over to Someone who willingly bore our griefs.
Remember Handel's Messiah? Just open up your Bible and read from the three verses where Handel got his lyrics for "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs" (Isaiah 53, verses 4-6):
“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on HIM the iniquity of us all.”