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Grief Explained

Mary Brown offers her thoughts on joining the Griever's Club

At exactly 6:32 a.m, on Wednesday August 30, 2023 a tremendous tear occurred in the fabric of my life.

The space-time continuum in my universe shuddered. And my son died. My beautiful boy. His heart beat for the first time inside me. I held my hand over his heart for his last.

My Michael James Brown.

With his death, I have become another member of the crappiest club in the world. It is the Grievers’ Club. It is also, by regular standards, the oddest club in the world. Members did not ask for membership, yet we are members for life. There are no membership fees, but we pay every day with sorrow, anger, denial, unanswerable questions and tears. Lots of tears.

The rules for each member are unique and may change daily. Strength, duration, ability to put one foot in front of the other, laughter, despair and memories all change without notice for each member.

And don’t forget the tears that come and go, sneaking up on members like leaves in the wind. We all experience that. That is perhaps the only commonality in this crappiest of clubs.

As members, we are not identifiable to outsiders. We do not wear a special colour, or emblem on our sleeve or wave a flag. To non-members, we seem as ordinary as bread, but inside each of us, we bear the burden of a shattered world. Yet we each carry this burden in our own way, in our own time, with our own rhythm.

There are a few perks to belonging to this crappiest of clubs. If you should identify another member of the club, or they you, you have found someone who “gets it”. They understand that you may need only a quiet cup of tea, a walk in the woods, a dog to pat, a pat on the shoulder, a hug, a common tear-fest. Other members do not judge or give advice, although they may be a good resource if the quest for advice comes from you. Other members know. They just know, and words are often not needed.

It is confounding to those outside the club to fully grasp how to approach and even talk to Grievers. This is probably because our society has not come to terms with grief itself. Grief is awkward and uncomfortable. It demands that those big, scary emotions have to be allowed to be expressed out loud, and it is messy. It is so messy! I’m talking snot and Kleenex messy.

Please let me offer, from my perspective, some advice to those who have not yet joined the crappiest club in the world, for we will all someday be members.

You will not make the griever sad if you mention their deceased loved one. You are not reminding them of their death. Grievers are intimately aware of the empty chair, and most likely want to share memories and stories. Please give grievers the space to do just that by listening and being present.

Do not ambush grievers with your heartfelt condolences. A big hug out of the blue in the middle of Safeway is just too, too much. And ugly crying in public is never a good look. Believe me, I know! If you want to offer your condolences, read the room. It may or may not be the best time for it.

A hand over your heart and a gentle nod may be the best way of asking, “May I approach you with my feelings?” Don’t be hurt if the answer is a raised hand and dropped head. Many days grievers are just putting one foot in front of the other, a whole bunch of times, and public grieving may not be in the cards at that time, on that day. But please, try again another time.

I could go on and on, but let me leave you with this quote from Rabbi Earl Grollman.

“Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

If you would like to know more about Michael James Brown (36) please see his obituary at

Mike Brown, photo by Jackie Ko

Mary and her husband Ross are long-time residents of Lions Bay. Read about their work with the BC Transplant society HERE and HERE, and via the Vancouver Sun HERE.

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kc dyer
kc dyer

From Christine Little:

'So beautifully written. I definitely struggle with how to manage those conversations, and this was a great insight.'

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