Feb 192015 4 Responses

What the Smartest People Rarely Know

What is one universal topic which influences the largest number of people but is most widely unknown or unrecognized?


One of the great guarantees of life is that we will all lose. Life cannot truly be lived without loss.

Humanity is well aware of the presence of grief in the traumatic losses of life.

Nothing can compare to the loss of a child.

Nothing can prepare us for the death of a parent.

No one can fully know the fear of a terminal diagnosis.

We are aware of grief in these situations, but even though we are all guaranteed to experience extreme loss in life, most of us are still gravely unaware of what that grief entails. (See: An Ever Changing Grief)

Yet beyond our ignorance of the grief process, we are also unaware of the presence of grief in our daily lives.

Everyday we experience small losses which do not compare to the traumatic losses of life, but which do create subtle symptoms of grief that influence our mood, thinking, and actions.

Losing is a part of life and every loss hurts to some degree.

  • parents aging
  • a child diagnosed
  • being laid off
  • dreams unrealized
  • relationships ending

Life is full of losses both large and small. We are foolish if we think the pain of life does not have a regular impact on us.

Grief is such a part of life that even good events can create symptoms of grief. Many parents experience aspects of grief when their child enters Kindergarten for the first time. While they are excited for the child’s growth, they are grieving the end of the preschool years. (See: What to do When Life Falls Apart)

While every grief is unique, there are basic qualities which all griefs share. Understanding the effects of grief can help us cope, prevent us from making foolish decisions, and provide empathy to ourselves and others.

It’s a regular occurrence. I’m visiting a patient in the hospital and a family member is telling me of some incompetence with their care—a test was ordered but not performed, a lab was lost, a doctor never showed up, the meal was late, etc. As I’m listening, a nurse will walk in and a family member will snap at her. The snap has little to do with the test, lab, doctor, or meal. It rarely has anything to do with the specific nurse. It is nearly always a byproduct of grief.

The family member snaps because they are tired, frustrated, and hurting. They snap at the nurse because they can.

Anger is a classic aspect of grief. Yet anger is often misplaced. One event or situation causes us to have anger, but we express the anger toward something else. How many times have you spoken harshly to your spouse or child after a long day? You are mad about work, but you express it toward your family.

That is what most often happens in a hospital. The family is grieving for their loved one while also enduring the exhaustion of the hospital stay, but without realizing the presence of grief, they take it out on a nurse who is simply trying to do her job.

How else does grief express itself? It’s easy for me to spot it in someone else’s life while in a hospital room, but how does it express itself in my life? In what ways am I being impatient with people because I’m grieving? How is the presence of grief influencing my thinking or actions in ways that I’m not even aware?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously describes grief in five stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These stages are not like steps on a path that a person walks in linear fashion; instead they are phases of which a person continually weaves in and out. (See: 7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts)

Most of us live in a continual state of denial, unaware that the pains of life are taking a toll on us emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. We deny the presence of the hurt or assume the pain will quickly pass because things will return the way they once were. We downplay hurts because they don’t compare to the pains of others.

While it is true that getting a demotion doesn’t compare to losing a loved one, we cannot deny the grief which comes from a career set-back.

Whenever we live in denial (or ignorance) of grief, we empower the grief to have a greater negative influence on our lives.

Understanding the process of grief cannot save us from grief, but it can minimize its effects on our lives.

Knowing grief results in anger can prevent us from snapping at an innocent person or give us tremendous grace when we are the objects of another person’s anger.

Realizing the weariness which loss creates can cause us to use even greater care when making decisions during times of grief. (See: The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry)

Being aware of our temptation toward denial can force us to take the pains of life more seriously.

Many smart people have no idea of the influence grief has on their lives. Sadly, grief can make smart people do dumb things. Grief unchecked is the root cause of many divorces, bankruptcies, addictions, and a plethora of other bad consequences.

The good news is that smart people have the ability to learn new things. By researching the process of grief and reflecting on the pains of one’s own life, a person can learn to properly cope and also be a great ally to others.

4 Responses to What the Smartest People Rarely Know
  1. […] 1. It will make them think they are right. This isn’t the highest of motives, but it speaks to... https://www.kevinathompson.com/dont-do-wrong-when-youve-been-wronged
  2. […] And in some seasons of life, your sorrow may be long-lasting. (See: What the Smartest People Rarely ... https://www.kevinathompson.com/not-every-tear-needs-a-diagnosis

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