Dealing with Sorrow and Grief: Learning to Let Go

Learning to let go - 620x429I recently lost someone in my life. Someone very close to me. Someone I love very much.

You can fall in love with, and become attached to anything. A person, an object, an idea, a place, a feeling, a belief.

No matter what it is that you’re attached to and in love with – once it’s gone – letting go can be hard.

Grief is an interesting thing. Many of my friends console me by saying that things happen for a reason, and we have to count our blessings. My mother always says that things could be worse, and she tells me the parable of a man who, while walking down a muddy street, complained to God that he didn’t have shoes. His complaints turned into prayers of gratitude when he noticed a man passing him on that muddy street who didn’t have any legs… She’s right. It could always be worse.

As Baha’is, we know that we’re supposed to constantly work towards being detached to the things of this earthly plain, and also to the fact that more than often, things may not go the way we had planned or hoped they’d go. Baha’u’llah tells us:

O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.1

Abdu’l-Baha also explained in a letter to a Baha’i couple:

Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility.2

We also know that in the Baha’i Faith we are told that suffering strengthens the soul. Abdu’l-Baha told us that…

Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit.

The labourer cuts up the earth with his plough, and from that earth comes the rich and plentiful harvest. The more a man is chastened, the greater is the harvest of spiritual virtues shown forth by him.3

Grieving is a very natural and necessary emotion which definitely has its place – but even grief has a ‘shelf-life’ and should not be taken to extremes:

In all matters, moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil.4

The Writings also tell us that both humans and God play a role in our everyday lives, but to what extent, and when exactly God plays a role in our lives is a mystery which only each one of us can, as individuals, try to determine for ourselves. Abdu’l-Baha explained:

The trials of man are of two kinds. (a) The consequences of his own actions. If a man eats too much, he ruins his digestion; if he takes poison he becomes ill or dies. If a person gambles he will lose his money; if he drinks too much he will lose his equilibrium. All these sufferings are caused by the man himself, it is quite clear therefore that certain sorrows are the result of our own deeds. (b) Other sufferings there are, which come upon the Faithful of God. Consider the great sorrows endured by Christ and by His apostles!

Those who suffer most, attain to the greatest perfection.5

Nonetheless, regardless of the origin or reasons for our grief, our focus is meant to be outward looking. Focusing on ourselves too much can also be stifling at times and focusing on the wellbeing of others should be our aim. Baha’u’llah says:

Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behaviour.6

Abdu’l-Baha also tells us that focusing on helping others is not only something we should do, but it is something which will help us in times of sorrow or anger:

Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you.7

Perhaps through enough prayer, meditation, and through acts of service to others, we can slowly work towards letting go of our sorrow and grief, and reflect on what lessons have been learned and the personal growth which has come out of it. I’d like to end with one of my favourite quotes from Abdu’l-Baha on this topic:

Everything in life ministers to our development. Our lesson is to study and learn… Tests are either stumbling blocks or stepping stones, just as we make them.8


  1. Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.232 []
  2. Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, Baha’i Publishing Committee, 1909 edition Pages: 730 []
  3. Paris Talks: Addresses given by Abdu’l-Baha in Paris in 1911-1912, pp. 49-51 []
  4. Tablets of Baha’u’llah revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas”, p. 69 []
  5. Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, UK Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1972 eleventh edition []
  6. Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas []
  7. The Research Department has found that these words were attributed to Abdu’l-Baha in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated. []
  8. Abdu’l-Baha cited in: Ten Days in the Light of Akka by Julia M. Grundy, 1907 []

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for more than a decade and he’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. He has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the DawnBreaker Collective and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of MANA albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the Building Momentum and Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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Discussion 9 Comments

  1. Another good quote: “We ought to show something greater than forgiveness in meeting the cruelties and strictures in our lives. To be hurt and forgive is saintly but far beyond this is the power to comprehend and not be hurt. This power we may have… acceptance without complaint and it should be associated with our name. We ought never to be known to complain or lament. It is not that we would “make the best of things,” but that we may find in everything, even in calamity, the gems of enduring wisdom. We ought never be impatient. We ought to be as incapable of impatience as one would be of revolt. This not being so much long-suffering as quiet awareness of the forces that operate in the hours of dark or years of waiting and inactivity. Always we ought to move with the larger rhythm, the wider sweep, towards our ultimate goal, in that complete acquiescence, that perfect chord which underlies the spirit of the faith itself.” -Bahiyyih Khanum, The Greatest Holy Leaf

  2. Take ownership of EVERYTHING good and bad as if it aas your choice. Stop fighting the perceived injustice of it all, but use it to polish an aspsct oc your character. Otherwise what is life for?

  3. What I write about below is somewhat tangential to the above essay but, it seems to me, highly relevant and so I send it along to Baha’i Blog readers with the interest. There are now dozens of sites on the internet for the myriad problems in psychiatry. The Authenticity Mental Health Network, and the Americanization of mental illness are two good ones to begin your stay at this subsection of my website on mental health: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/MENTAL_HEALTH.html

    Readers are of course free to begin where they please at the above link. This hardly needs saying. I belong to over 100: mental health, bipolar, schizophrenia, affective disorder, personality disorder, and general health sites. I interact as little as possible, and now only respond to incoming posts, direct emails to me, when I can be of help to others. There are literally 100s of thousands of people at the sum-total of all the health sites at which I am registered, and I could spend all my time dealing with the people at these sites with problems associated with “the battles of life.”

    After a decade at this multitude of sites, 2004-2014, I now only respond, as I say above, to those who send me direct questions, questions that come in to my daily batch of emails. Mental disorders now account for a significant percentage of the non-fatal burden of disease both nationally and globally. The World Health Organization has recognised that the great range of mood disorders are estimated to affect some 340 million people globally at any one time. To put this another way: mood disorders are of epidemic proportion. In the United States of America alone, the yearly cost of depression is estimated at US$44 billion, equal to the total cost of all cardiovascular diseases. This was 17 years ago in 1997.

    There is an estimated and staggering indirect cost of perhaps $200 billion a year in the USA alone when one includes the impact of: (i) incarceration, (ii) homelessness, (iii) the high rate of medical complications, (iv) dependence on emergency room care, (v) lower educational attainment, (vi) the reduced ability to hold jobs, (vii) the burden on friends and families, and (viii) a range of social and environmental, criminal and behavioural, problems that are linked to the world of mental health. These 8 factors, and their application in the over 200 countries, could alone make for a separate book on the subject. Indeed, there is already an extensive literature on these many factors, and a literature that is nation-specific in relation to many of these countries. For those who are interested, the literature could keep a reader going for the rest of their life.

    José Maria Vigil has investigated the psychological well-being of one continent, Latin America. She has diagnosed a state of collective depression, that is, a continent as having actually the same symptomatology as for individual depression: disappointment, loss of self esteem, self-accusation, demobilisation, disorientation, de-politicization, escape into spiritualism, loss of memory, withdrawal and psychosomatic problems (Vigil, 2000: p. 2). It is possible in a similar way, to assess the condition of a large proportion of young people as being one of collective depression. I leave it to readers to follow-up on this topic in relation to each and all of the world’s continents. This notion of collective well-being is, like so many problems, complex, and an account like my own does not deal with it except to simply mention it and pass on.

  4. Thanks for these insights into depression and mood disorders, Ron! I tried to open your pages but my virus protector warned me against it, saying

    We recommend that you don’t continue to this website because it is reported to contain the following threats:
    Suspicious threat:

    This is a suspicious site. There is a higher than average probability that you will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.

    1. Thanks, Susan. That’s the first time anyone has mentioned this problem with my site. I’ll have to contact my Web Design and hosting people to sort it out.-Ron

  5. Ron’s comment on depression and mood disorders reminds me of this quote:

    Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you—and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.

    Note: The Research] Department has found that these words were attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated.

    The Baha’i Writings have a LOT to say about overcoming depression. I’ve written a 135 page ebook called “Darkness into Light – Overcoming Depression” which can be downloaded for free at: http://susangammage.com/free-ebooks

  6. Thanks for this thoughtful article, Naysan. One thing I have learned about loss in my own life, is that it has made me more empathetic towards people around me. Truly we never know what others are going through, and we should always do our best not to assume everything is “okay” with someone else. Often when people are less thoughtful than usual, snapping up the opportunity to argue, or backing out of commitments it’s likely that something deeper is going on. It is easy to judge and retaliate, but if we are more thoughtful about what they may be going through, we may be able to help them in some way instead. It’s a constant learning process, this life. Wishing you the best as you navigate this difficult time.

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