As a chaplain I send out a lot of articles in hope that they will be encouraging to people in their grief journey. Being a companion to these loved ones as they go through their grief has been a great privilege. Hopefully, the articles have been a blessing to you as you progressed in coping with the loss of someone near and dear to you. Healthy grieving takes time. It takes emotional effort to learn about ourselves, about our family, and about how we are created.

Helen Keller once wrote, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of overcoming it.” We, hospice chaplains, pray that you have felt some comfort, strength and yes, even some victories in overcoming these waves of grief that came your way. Grief has been likened to “peeling an onion,” it comes off one layer at a time, and you cry a lot. This comparison allows some great flexibility and meaning. No two onions are exactly alike, and the same applies to grieving experiences. Each one is unique unto itself. Each person grieves in his or her own way and on his or her own timetable.

In these articles, it is my prayer that they are encouraging you and others to peel back the different layers of feelings of the onion of grief. The first major layer of the onion was the thick outer shell. The shock of death striking so near causes such a flood of emotions, but we realize we are moving through a normal stage of grieving.

The second primary layer is called the reality deposit. This layer gradually comes after the shock, but it will come; and then reality begins its slow takeover. We may feel loss, hopelessness and even unbearable emotional pain. There seems to be no way out and no way to survive, but we discovered four realities that can help us to cope.

The third primary layer is what I call the reaction, or the fighting back level. This is where we talk and express ourselves to special people in our lives. If we don’t communicate our grief with friends or family members, then we can become angry, bitter, mad and hateful people to those whom we dearly love. The key to overcoming this layer is sharing what is going on in our hearts and minds with someone special.

The fourth and final layer of grieving is rebuilding. We do not get well. The pain does not go away. We do not forget or stop honoring our loved one. But the day comes when we turn the corner in the way we cope. As the journey progresses we begin to discover things that speak to us. Some find Scriptures like the 23rd Psalm that reaches out and touches their hearts and souls. For others, there may be a poem or a statement someone wrote or said to us in the right moment that made it meaningful to our lives. One day we wake up and for some unknown reason, we experience - inside our hearts, real comfort. It comes gradually as our hearts are healed.

Here is a reading by Doug Manning that I would like to close with, and it’s called “When Memories Become Precious”:

Grief is A Journey…

We move from seeing the person by sight to seeing them in memories.

Memories are also in constant movement.

At first, they are too painful for endurance, and every memory breaks our hearts.

Gradually they help us establish the significance of our love and our loss.

In time, our memories become our most precious possession.

The ones that once hurt the most become the ones we never tire of telling.

And our loved one is reborn inside of our hearts.

That is called the journey of grief.

May the reading of this article be a blessing as you journey on the upward road of rebuilding your life!

John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of Northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at