People talk about the death of a beloved pet, the death of someone they know, loss of friends, or the loss of a job or health, but more often than not we respond by saying “sorry for your loss.” We don’t ask what they’re feeling. And most of us, when asked how we’re feeling about a loss, say “fine” or “OK” even if we are heartbroken and may want to express it.

“Grief is the most off-limits topic of conversation,” according to The Grief Recovery Institute, yet most of us have experienced devastating losses in our lives. We can conclude there is a lot of suppression regarding talking about feelings after loss.

Grief is the natural and normal emotional reaction to loss of any kind. Our heart may feel broken from the loss. It’s natural to feel bad, but most of us try not to. We concentrate on good things and suppress the sadness and pain. We keep busy and act like we’re doing okay.

Years ago my daughter graduated from college. What a celebration of accomplishment! Family and friends gathered to rejoice, and I certainly enjoyed the moment too. But, along with all the excitement and achievement, I became aware of an undercurrent of anxiety and feelings I know to be associated with grief.

I asked myself what I was feeling. A feeling of sadness came over me. I felt the pain of loss. My child would be moving farther away from home and into her own life. Once I allowed the emotions in, I started feeling happy and at ease as I thought how capable she is and how much she really doesn’t need me.

Grief is the honest response to changes in our lives. I love my daughter more than I love anyone, and isn’t it natural that even as she creates her own life and I feel proud and happy, I also feel sad and lonely? As I allowed for the feelings of pain over seeing her move away from me, I also felt the joy of seeing her make her way in the world.

Like wisdom, grief has the capacity for holding many seemingly opposing thoughts, ideas, or feelings at the same time. With major loss, we feel deep sorrow. We also can feel relief, and even some joy. Allowing for the pain and feeling it completely frees us to be in touch with our deepest passion.