Guy Newland: A Buddhist Grief Observed
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, author and Tibetan Buddhist scholar Guy Newland speaks profoundly on the experience of grief in the context of Buddhist teachings and practices. Guy published his book A Buddhist Grief Observed with Wisdom in the summer of 2016; contained within its pages is Guy’s reflection on his grieving process during the time when his wife, Valerie, was dying, and how he came to terms with her death after she passed away in 2013. In the tradition of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Guy recalls the emotional states he found himself in and how he learned how to address them within the framework of his spiritual tradition.
Even though Guy had been a practicing Buddhist for many years before Valerie’s death, he recounts how he felt utterly unprepared to handle the shock and isolation he experienced. In the beginning, he recalls how he identified with his suffering, and how, with practice, he was gradually able to move past this. He also remembers how others around him reacted, notes what consolations he found helpful and unhelpful, and offers advice for those finding themselves in the position of trying to comfort a grieving person whose world has been entirely upended. Guy tells us that, as he began to speak more openly about his experience, he was surprised at how others felt able to open up about traumatic events in their past as well. This helped to normalize the grieving process and ease his sense of alienation, eventually leading him to write his book with the hope that he could do the same for others.
Drawing inspiration from all corners of the Buddhist world—from Zen stories and the Dalai Lama, to Pema Chödrön and ancient Pali texts—Guy’s story and his insights resonate with a genuine kindness and a deep humanity, demonstrating to us the power of responding with our whole hearts to the realities of death and dying.
About the Interviewee
Guy Newland is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Central Michigan University, where he has taught since 1988. He has authored, edited, and translated several books on Tibetan Buddhism, including the three-volume translation of The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and Introduction to Emptiness. Since the loss of his wife Valerie Stephens in 2013, he has expanded his teachings, given to universities and Dharma centers, which include topics on death, dying, and grief. He lives in Mount Pleasant, MI.