January 3, 2014

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

Deuth,-Dave-colorBy David W. Deuth, CFSP
President, Weerts Funeral Home

Former President Gerald R. Ford was known to have said that he knew he was getting better at golf because he was hitting fewer spectators. Charlie Brown, the shy but affable character created decades ago by the late cartoonist

Charles Schulz, was known for continually using a phrase that certainly has different meaning to me today as a funeral director than it did when I was reading the funnies as a kid:

“Good Grief.”

If I asked a hundred people if they’d rather be better at golf than at “grief,” I imagine I’d get a good many more votes for golf. Having golfed less than a dozen times in my entire life, I’m probably not a good one to ask!

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang generally used the expression “good grief” to express exasperation or frustration. What a corollary! Grief IS exasperating and can be immensely frustrating when your world is rocked upside down and your heart is broken and you’re trying to find a “new normal.”

So how does one get “good” at grief when they’ve endured the death of someone they love?

Like most everything else worth doing in this life, it’s hard work. Grief is a process. It’s not a one-and-done event that we can cross off the calendar a week from next Tuesday. And, not unlike other things in life that are considered hard work, the grief process also comes with some good feelings along the way when certain accomplishments have been met.

Perhaps contrary to the human thought process, “good grief” requires embracing our grief, figuratively putting our arms around it and taking emotional control of it. It requires laughter AND tears. It requires continual attention for some time and consistent attention for a long time. It requires telling the story. It may require writing letters and journals. It may require spiritual counsel. And this is all well worth doing, as it is the pathway to remembering well.

Will Charlie Brown EVER get to kick the football? Probably not as long as Lucy is holding the ball; she’s pretty good at pulling it away at the last second and watching him land flat on his back. And, not unlike Lucy, the nagging emotions of unresolved grief will continue to accuse us of being a “blockhead,” convincing us that we are unsuccessful in dealing with our grief…and perpetuating the notion that we never will be.

Perhaps the biggest reason Charlie Brown never gets to kick the football is because he doesn’t change anything about the process and still expects – against all odds – a different outcome. If he were to assess and embrace his situation – and then make a simple adjustment in the one he trusts to hold the ball – he just might be able to knock it out of the park and kick the game-winning score!

Working through one’s grief is certainly difficult and complex and cannot be compared to a comic strip character. And yet the simplicity of Charlie Brown’s frustrating example may shine some much-needed light on a very challenging area of life that affects us all at one time or another.

Although the best approach to “good grief” is simple – that is, taking charge of it – working through grief is an undeniably difficult task. It WILL require some changes and adjustments along the way. We WILL encounter challenges and setbacks and disappointments. However, the biggest difference for us is that, unlike Charlie Brown’s seemingly perpetual missed kick, we all have the ability to be successful in our own grief journeys if we approach them with the proper perspective.

And that means we have to have the right person holding the ball.

Remember Well.

David W. Deuth, CFSP, is a funeral director and the owner of Weerts Funeral Home in Davenport and
RiverBend Cremation in Bettendorf. He can be reached at 563.424.7055 or by email at Dave@WeertsFH.com.

Filed Under: Personal Growth