Grief is the Teacher

A poem on grief

Sarah Sullivan
3 min readAug 1, 2022
Photograph taken by the incomparable Seva Jagat at Guru Jagat’s funeral in Hollywood, California, on August 9, 2021.

On August 1, 2021, my teacher Guru Jagat passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41. Of her many, many parting gifts to me, was this poem which came through me a few days after her passing, while sitting in the lobby of the Ra Ma Institute in Venice, California.

Grief is the Teacher

Grief is the Teacher of a course that no one ever signs up to take.

Each semester, Grief enters an empty classroom. Yet Grief’s mandate is to advance its teachings. So, it hand-selects its Students.

Grief knows its coursework is brutal. So it tries its best not to discriminate.

You know when a new Student is chosen by the look in their eyes: equal parts Terror and Knowing.

Grief enrolls you in a flash: stripping you of someone you love, some essential part of you, something that you were sure was inseparable from you. Grief takes exactly as much as it must to teach you, but no more.

Grief takes what you were certain you would die without. Yet Grief leaves you alive.

Grief’s first assignment is to answer: If you have lost something that you believed was you, but you have remained alive, who, then, are you?

After your selection, Grief’s Graduates rush to your side. They know that look — that Terror, that Knowing. The Graduates weep for what they know you will endure. Through their tears, they direct you firmly:

“I am sorry you have been selected. But there is no going back now. You must learn the lessons of your new Teacher. Grief is a Master who will reveal the secrets to life in the way nothing else can.”

In your suffering, Grief shows you the Truth. Grief opens a portal to Heal anything that has ever hurt you. Grief quiets your life, steps on your chest so even the sound of your breath is silenced — so you can hear the Whisper of Destiny. Grief requires that you become Bigger than you allowed yourself to be. Grief stretches your Heart far, far beyond what you can take. Grief reveals the depth of your Love.

Sometimes Grief’s Graduates are chosen again for advanced coursework. The material does not get any easier. But you have greater confidence in your Teacher.

Painful, precise, cutting, necessary — Grief customizes its teachings for each Student individually.

Always though, the course ends with the same test. For the final exam, Grief asks:

“Please demonstrate in front of the class how to keep an open heart as you lose what you have loved most of all.”

Pass the test, and you become a Keeper of the Secrets of Life.

Only at your moment of graduation, does your Teacher remove the cloak you never knew it was wearing.

Only then, you discover your Teacher was named Love all along.

Sarah Sullivan, Ra Ma Institute, Venice, California, August 11, 2021



Sarah Sullivan

Mostly interested in healing of all kinds. Formerly: NDP, @USDigitalService, and Obama White House.