Commitment and Grief

G. Scott Graham
8 min readSep 14, 2022

Let me ask you a question: are you a person of your word?

Seriously. Answer the question. When you make a commitment do you stick with it? Do you follow through?

I bet that every single person reading this article answered “Yes!” (with an exclamation point, mind you) to my question.

The truth is that most people lack commitment. If every single person was committed and every single person lived by their word, we’d live in a world with zero divorce, zero animal shelters, and zero abandoned children. We’d live in a world without fat people, where everyone ate healthily, and where everyone exercised beyond their New Year Resolution. We’d live in a world where we would trust politicians, trust in our world, and trust in ourselves.

(I don’t live up to all these things every day. But when I make an express commitment to something I do stay the course until the end).

Stop sleeping!

Few people experience this lack of commitment more profoundly than those who are grieving. While it is true that people are there in the immediate aftermath of loss, their motivation for “being there” is primarily so they look nice in the eyes of others or because “this is what you are supposed to do.” They long to demonstrate how supportive, good, and compassionate they are for all to see. They send flowers and cards, show up to the funeral, type “praying for you” emojis on social media, and more. But the truth is that these actions are all about them and not about the grieving and their loss.

Now, before you accuse me of being jaded, let me be clear that I am just being blunt and direct. Let me be clear that I am just speaking the truth. Let me be clear that I am just trying to WAKE YOU UP.

If you are new to grieving, be prepared. That honest-to-goodness support you feel today will dissipate over time. Other writers about grief argue that this dynamic has to do with how we perceive grief itself — the truth is grief does not dissipate over time, grief lasts long after people unfamiliar with the concept think it goes away, and long-term grief is not a mental illness. These writers are correct in their analysis. But the issue with why people are not there to support those who are grieving months and years after the date of their loss is more complicated than just some misunderstanding about what grief is and how grief works. It is about commitment.

My Story

Thirty-three months ago, after my husband, Brian, died, I received an outpouring of support. Lots of people asked, “What can I do?” and said, “Whatever you need, I am there for you.” As those who have read my book, “Come As You Are: Meditation and Grief,” know, I was prepared for these hollow offers.

I had made a list — a long and broad list that included a range of things from the pragmatic and immediate to the symbolic and emotional. This list included things like helping to clean my house for a couple of weeks, loaning me money, co-signing on a car, and accompanying me in Brian’s place at concerts and events that we had purchased tickets for.

Also on this list was a request to do a mud race with me.

As you learned from my article, “The Hardest Obstacle on the Tough Mudder,” these races were a core part of our relationship. I would even go so far as to say that these races were a symbol of how we saw our relationship — one of unwavering support, engaged communication, and steadfast determination.

It was a no-brainer to ask people to support me by doing one of these mud races with me to honor my husband and our relationship. I was grateful and proud to see a number of my friends paid to register for a mud race with me. The support I felt at that time was palpable.

Thirty-two months ago, the COVID epidemic hit, and everything closed down. The races that people registered for were postponed and then postponed again.

Lots of things have changed in those thirty-two months since people made that commitment. Ukraine was invaded, the US endured an insurrection, and I have had two total knee replacements. Big things. (From my self-centered perspective, MY total knee replacements far surpassed the Ukraine invasion and the insurrection).

Every single person who committed to doing one of these races with me has not followed through on their commitment and their word. On September 25th there is one race left on the books — the Rugged Maniac. Four people claimed to support me and registered for that race to honor Brian.

Yesterday — with two weeks to go until the “race” — I messaged those four people. All but one bailed. All were armed with excuses for not remaining committed — work, fitness level, and even other “commitments” (Yes, I really got a text back from one person that said, “I am sorry I have another commitment”). Only one saw their commitment and integrity as stronger than their excuses.

Our message exchange was as follows:

Nate: “Oh boy — I haven’t done anything physical in ages. What is the distance?”
Scott: “3.1 miles. No running involved (I cannot run with my two artificial knees — I mean I am able to run — but it is not something to do because the pounding from running will destroy my plastic parts). SO WE ARE WALKING! And taking lots of photos. And having fun!”
Nate: “Ok sounds good! I’ll be there”

That’s commitment.

Reflecting on my Experience

As I wrap up this article, I am overcome with tears. In fact, the tears were so profound that I had to stop writing, walk away, go outside and play with my canine companions just to regain enough composure to finish.

It’s not sadness that I feel. It is not anguish. It is not grief. Actually, I am not sure what I am feeling.

What I am thinking is how proud and grateful Brian would feel right now knowing that Nate is going to follow through on his commitment and do the Rugged Maniac with me. You see, one of the pillars of our relationship was commitment. And not just some casual application of commitment. He had my back. I had his back. Unequivocally. Unwavering. Unyielding. Period. End of story.

He would have tears of happiness knowing that thirty-one months after his death, Nate has my back.

The Moral of the Story

So, what does all this mean? What is the point of my effort to share this story, these thoughts, and these ideas? What is the point of you reading or listening to this story, these thoughts, and these ideas?

For those supporting those who are grieving. WAKE UP. Recognize that grief doesn’t go away. Recognize that your words and your commitment have a significant impact on those grieving. And when you don’t keep your word and honor your commitment, it has a significant impact on those grieving. In your rush to comfort and fix — especially in those early days of loss — don’t promise something where there is a high risk that you might not hold true to your word. Use your words wisely.

For those who are grieving. WAKE UP. Recognize that your grief won’t go away. Recognize that people around you will expect your grief to go away. Recognize that most people who are showing you support are doing so because they think it is what they are supposed to do. In other words, it is about them and their self- and public- image and not you and your loss. Expect people to not support you and then you can be grateful when they do. Expect people to support you and then you risk being saddened if they don’t. Find steadiness not from the outside but from the inside. Find steadfastness in the power of your grief.

For both the supporters and the grievers. Make a commitment now to WAKE UP and LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Life, after all, is like ice cream: it is delicious and impermanent. Savor, cherish, and engage with it fully.

These articles, as well as my book, “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief,” expose the truth about grief. I am blunt. I don’t sugar-coat what I have discovered about grief and how we deal (and don’t deal) with it. Grief is too important of a topic for me to beat around the bush.

I want you to know that until Brian died and I directly experienced powerful personal grief and loss on a level that completely rocked my world, I had my head up my ass just like some of you reading this article probably do. And I was a therapist. I hurt a lot of people because I didn’t have enough self-awareness and I didn’t have enough empathy. I thoughtlessly bought into the lie that we are told about grieving.

When I wrote the book “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief,” I thought that my understanding was complete. I was wrong. That is why I continue to share my insights in these articles. Thank you for reading this, and I invite you to learn more about what grief truly is. You can read other posts right here on Medium, and you can get my book in digital, audio, and print versions.



G. Scott Graham

G. Scott Graham is an author, a career coach, a business coach, and a psychedelic support coach in Boston, Massachusetts. http://BostonBusiness.Coach