grief semantics: can you bless without looking for a blessing?


I was talking with someone on twitter yesterday. The topic was: are there things you cannot bless?

My language-centric mind latched on to the language cues there, the specificity of word choice. I wondered about the roots of the word, the many ways it is applied. My grief-sensitive heart latched onto the shadow side of “blessing” – the many ways it’s used to dismiss or diminish the reality of grief.

So many of us hear that no matter what loss or pain we’ve faced, there’s a hidden blessing, a gift inside whatever life has dealt. That is such entire crap. 

That whole “how did this terrible thing actually work out for good?” is such a hideous thing to suggest to anyone, at any point in their grief. At any point in their life, really.

I could go on and on about this, and I have. What I want to talk about here today, though, is the difference between blessing something and seeing it as a blessing.

Outside of any religious connotation, to bless something is to mark it as sacred. To bless is to acknowledge something deep and important. Something real. To bless is to mark a space as special, to name it as set apart.

For me, to bless is to acknowledge the space: a marked off space of intensity and love. It means to come with intention to a place, or a time, set apart.

Can you bless the space your heart is in? Can you bless the intensity of grief, the reality of the container of your life? Can you, can we, in a sense, bow to that which is, here, now, this?

And can we do that, can we bow to our own sacred pain, without transferring over into seeing it as a blessing? Can we keep it a verb without making it a noun?

Certainly, the outside world will insist we find the blessing. The outside world wants the opposite of “bless” – it wants to remove the sacred space, the set apart container of the broken heart. The outside world wants to hustle us on to this alleged “finding of the gift” – it’s part of that false positivity we’ve spoken of before. That nearly manic push to make all things rosy and great.

We know life is not like that. Life is beautiful and difficult and broken in ways that can’t be fixed. All of us know that. Even the people who insist on finding blessings know that.

So can we bless without looking for blessing?

This is tricky business. To resist any urge to pretty this up. To refuse to be shoved into looking for a “gift.”

And at the same time, to claim and to bless. To bow to the pain. To bow to love and to broken-ness. To see it as the sacred space it is, to delineate the space set-apart.

To demand respect for the power and beauty inside that space. That space that is life and grief and love.

Bless you, my loves. Bless this space set-apart, where grief and love live together, side by side. Bless the space of your grief.

The noun is wholly irrelevant. And so I send you the verb.



How about you? How do you bow to the sacredness, the set-apart-ness, of grief? Or can you? How do you understand the difference between bless and “a blessing”? Let us know in the comments, or send me a message.