Declaring Independence from Grief

Here in the U.S. we celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day. It is the day that Congress approved a Declaration of Independence from British rule. It marks the birth of our nation as a free, self-governing entity. The Declaration asserts that everyone has the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and claims that when any form of governance “becomes obstructive to these ends,” it is our right “to alter or to abolish it.”

When grief has reigned as king in our lives for too long, it may be that we, too, need to declare our independence and reclaim our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

Claiming freedom is only the first step. Like this country’s forefathers, we may have to fight to win our freedom. The energy of grief (one form of what don Miguel Ruiz might call “the parasite” or Eckhart Tolle might call “the pain body”) will fight to hold on. It does not want to be vanquished. And there are factions within the psyche, just as there were colonies and individuals in our early nation, who may wish to remain loyal to the current king.

In the case of grief, we may feel that remaining loyal to the pain is the only way to remain loyal to our deceased loved ones. But would we wish for anyone who loves us to be in constant pain? Why would our deceased loved ones ask for such cruel loyalty? We would honor them better by living our lives to the fullest, freeing ourselves from pain and pursuing happiness and joy full steam ahead.

I know this isn’t easy, especially in the early days of grief. There is no timetable or deadline and everyone’s journey will be different. However, for me, there came a day when I recognized that if I ever expected to feel “normal” again, I had to make a conscious choice and effort to reclaim joy. Grief had become a tyrant under whose thumb I languished. I was tired of telling the story of my loss and tired of feeling victimized by it. I was ready to be free. Are you?

Reclaiming the right to feel happiness is an act of power and an act of faith. Declaring independence from grief is not a one-time choice; it is a commitment to consistently choosing life and joy, day by day and minute by minute. It is well worth the fight.

So here, very loosely based on the original Declaration, I propose a Declaration of Independence from Grief:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to experience the loss of another who was Deeply Loved, pain and sadness naturally result. And while it behooves us to feel what we feel and to mourn our losses, there comes a time when the Kingdom of Grief becomes a Tyranny best left behind.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we have a Right to live fully even though our Loved One has passed, that our Loved One would rather be honored with Laughter and Love than with tears, that while Life will always be different now it can still be Joyful and Fulfilling, and that we have the Freedom and the Power to choose Happiness.

We therefore, as self-sovereign individuals, solemnly publish and declare that we have a Right to be free of the Rule and Tyranny of Grief, that we have the Right and the Will to fight for that Freedom, and that we will emerge Victorious and at Peace within ourselves.

Won’t you join me this day in signing the Declaration? By doing so, you will be creating your own personal Independence Day, and that is truly something to celebrate.


Choice AND Consequences

I’m undoubtedly dating myself when I say I remember an old game show called Truth or Consequences. Of course, it’s the Bob Barker era of the show that I remember – I’m definitely not old enough to be talking about the original 1940’s radio program hosted by Ralph Edwards. (The only reason I even know about that is from this Wikipedia entry.)

The reason I bring this show up is because I think the game of Life (not the board game – actual L-I-F-E) is a very similar venture. Except instead of Truth or Consequences, the real title of the game is Choice AND Consequences.

In the game show, contestants had to answer a trick question in a very short time frame. The questions were generally impossible to answer, and the buzzer would go off before the contestant could even try to make something up. When the contestant couldn’t answer, he or she would have to face the consequences. Most often the consequences involved some slapstick embarrassing stunt, but sometimes the consequence was a heart-warming reunion with a loved one.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like life?

We are faced with trick questions every day. There are mundane questions, like the one that usually hits me as I’m already en route: “Will I be able to take the short route to Scottsdale or is the Loop 101 Freeway closed today?” Buzzz. You lose. Detour 1 mile ahead.

There are more philosophical questions like: “Can I create my reality with my thoughts?” Buzzzz. Time’s up – you already have.

And then there are the seemingly unanswerable “Why” questions that surround every challenge and loss we face: “Why is my job the one to be cut?” Buzzzz. “Why did I get this disease?” Buzzzz. “ Why did my child have to die?” Buzz, buzz, buzz.

Here’s the thing. In all of life’s situations, it’s not so much a matter of finding the “Truth” OR facing consequences. We’re already facing consequences all of the time – consequences based on the choices we make. It’s all about making a choice AND experiencing the consequences. And then making another choice about how we respond to those consequences, which leads to more consequences.

Of course, I’m not saying anyone consciously chose to lose their job, their investments, their home or their loved one. Usually there are a whole bunch of unconscious choices and beliefs at play. And not all of those choices are our own – after all we each share this planet with another six billion or so conscious and unconscious choice makers. So, as the bumper sticker says, sometimes Shit Happens.

When it does, you can spin your wheels trying to answer the trick question “Why?” before the buzzer goes off, or you can simply CHOOSE to respond – mentally, emotionally and practically – in the way that creates the best next consequence for you.

You see, no matter how tricky the question, no matter how painfully challenging the situation, the choice we make about how we respond makes all the difference. It always makes more sense to choose joy than to choose pain.

So, I guessed wrong and found the freeway closed? Oh well, the extra time on the road can give me just enough time to listen to some of my favorite music. Or I can take a brand new route and maybe I’ll discover a fabulous shop I didn’t know was there. If I CHOOSE to look at this as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience, I completely reshape the consequences.

Sure. That’s easy. But what about the bigger consequences? What about the loss of a loved one? What about the loss of my son? I still have a choice. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would prefer it didn’t have to happen. But it did. Shall I spend the rest of my life trying to answer “Why?” Or should I choose to experience joy and live the rest of my life fully? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no buzzer. But time is very definitely moving on whatever I choose and even if I choose not to choose. It’s all Choice and Consequences.

So here’s your next question on Choice and Consequences. You have just 3 seconds to answer:

“Is anything inherently meaningful, or does it only become so by the meaning you give it?”

Buzzz. Time’s up. Here’s your consequence: a slapstick pratfall or a joyful experience. The choice is yours.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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