Inspirational Articles

We Overcome Grief Like Mushrooms not Yeast

We overcome grief like mushrooms, not yeast. Instead of rising and expanding uniformly like bread in the oven, grief can pop up sporadically like mushrooms in the garden. Like the various shapes, colors and varieties of mushrooms,  grief manifests itself in different ways – seemingly popping up overnight – in the grass, or on branches and trees.

We’ve all heard about the five stages of grief, made famous by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). My experience has been that we all experience and overcome grief differently – in our own unique way.  The five stages may be condensed or expanded or may overlap at certain times in our lives. So breathe a sigh of relief – your grief process is normal, and the way you choose to deal with it is unique to your own circumstances.


Photo: Amanita excels (Armitt Museum and Library)

The way we choose to overcome these emotions and sustain hope in the midst of despair is also unique. Rebecca Solnit in Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, has explored the complexities of sustaining hope in our times of great despair and grief.  She writes:

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone”.

Photo: Flammulina velutipes (Armitt Museum and Library)

Change as a result of the loss of a parent, spouse or child – is rarely straightforward. Solnit also wites about what comes after change and the seeming victories that we experience after struggle and adversity:

“A victory doesn’t mean that everything is now going to be nice forever and we can therefore all go lounge around until the end of time. Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. I’ve long been more afraid that people will give up and go home or never get started in the first place if they think no victory is possible or fail to recognize the victories already achieved.  A victory is a milestone on the road, evidence that sometimes we win, and encouragement to keep going, not to stop”.

Photo: Hygrophorus puniceus (Armitt Museum and Library)

Lepiota friesii (Armitt Museum and Library)

Hydrocybe coccinea (Armitt Museum and Library)

So, if you happen to hear murmurings about how you are dealing with your own grief – you can simply respond by saying: “We overcome grief like mushrooms, not yeast”.


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