Grief is more than an emotion. Like love, it goes much deeper.

Emotions are generally temporary and subject to change with surrounding circumstances.

A child gets a good grade on a test. She is happy and proud (two emotions). Rain dampens a planned party. The hostess is disappointed and frustrated (two more). A friend reneges on a promise. I am angry and hurt (another couple). None of these emotions lasts very long. Each emotion can be replaced by another rather quickly, with merely a change of events.

No so grief.

Grief lingers. Grief rises and falls like ocean waves. Grief creates its own landscape – an unknown and hazardous terrain where the bereaved must travel. Grief can last a lifetime.

And yet we label grief an emotion. We – in our Western culture – expect grief to be as fleeting and easily changed as other emotions. Businesses typically allow three days for “bereavement leave” and expect the grief-stricken to return to work normally on the fourth day, as if they had been out with a virus.

Grief doesn’t work that way.

Grief isn’t a choice. The loss sweeps through our lives and removes the familiar, leaving the bereft in an unknown land. Grief is not voluntary. We can’t just “get over it” by wanting it so. The loss itself transports us to another place, another world, another existence where everything appears to be the same, but in truth nothing is.

Our world – the world of the grieving – is forever altered for us. We walk a new, crooked road that others don’t see. And no amount of wanting will take us back to the way things were. Death cannot be altered.

As we walk the paths of grief, and as time passes, we become familiar with our new world. The agonizing sharpness of the pain is gradually dulled; we slowly learn to cope with our changed universe.

Grief is more than an emotion; it is a wound. Recovery depends on the depth of the wound, as well as the willingness of the wounded to heal. All grief leaves scars – some are small and manageable; others are like amputations – a permanent, sometimes debilitating reminder of a major loss. Healing is a long-term process, not achievable by a simple change of events.

To understand grief, we must give it a different place in our society. Grief is far more than a simple emotion. It is a journey.

Author's Bio: 

Born in Sun Valley, Idaho, Tamara Thomas moved to Arizona in 1980. She has lived and worked in the Wickenburg area for the last 11 years, and has spent the last eight years working at the Wickenburg Sun newspaper.

Tamara was educated at Reed College, Vanderbilt University and the University of Arizona. As well as being editor at The Sun, she is a professional artist with local murals on display in downtown Wickenburg and in many private homes and businesses throughout the west, as well as canvases that she shows and sells both locally and nationally.

Upon the loss of her only child in 2008, she underwent profound personal changes. Some of those changes produced a few good things: She helped found the $3,000 Abigail Garcia memorial scholarship for local graduating high school seniors; she founded a local mentoring group for at-risk high school students; she adopted a grade-school student from foster care – her second beloved daughter Tina; and she started a blog about grief, organ donation, adoption and related interwoven topics with the desire to benefit others experiencing similar changes.

Tamara can be reached through The Wickenburg Sun; by mail at PO Box 86, Wickenburg AZ 85358; through her website, or via email at