Dancing the Freestyle Dance of Grief

Dancing the Freestyle Dance of Grief

When I was in junior high, my physical education class included a foray into lessons on dancing. Early teenage years for boys and girls—combined with dancing—create awkward, uncomfortable situations. It’s also known as torture. So, I’ve really never been a dancer. While I actually have tried dancing, I’m just not that good at it. Apparently, loving music doesn’t necessarily make you a good dancer. Simply stated, I’m not good at gliding on my feet.

However, in one period of our marriage, Kim and I took dance lessons so we could be ready to dance at an upcoming wedding. About that same time, we celebrated our anniversary by going to the Homestead Inn in the western part of Virginia. This historic site has hosted at least twenty-two US presidents. On our anniversary night we enjoyed a delicious meal in The Dining Room, their fine dining area. They describe their cuisine as refined and influenced by regional tastes. And they proudly claim their inn has a culinary heritage.

And there was a dance floor.

Actually, Kim knew there was a dance floor because she had talked about us dancing. Practicing what we’d learned.

I don’t like to dance. Awkward. Torture.

However, love calls on you to do things that you don’t like to do. And so, Kim and I got out on the dance floor and practiced what we had learned. Only one or two other couples stepped onto the dance floor that evening. So, it was more awkward and more torturous that you can imagine. But we did it. We tried the Fox Trot and the Waltz. Don’t miss that word, tried. However, Kim had fun, and so I was glad I had acquiesced to her wishes. But I was glad when it was over. Again, love calls on you to do some things you might prefer not to do.

Later that evening, we were walking down a hallway in the hotel. A woman and her mother stopped us and asked if we were the couple that had been dancing on the floor. Kim smiled, and I sheepishly tried to hide my smirk. I was embarrassed for trying, and now I was about to be even more embarrassed because someone saw me. My smirk said, “I told you so” to Kim. But then the woman said, “You two must be professionals.” My smirk quickly turned to a proud-of-myself smile. Kim’s response was less surprised, as if she fully expected the compliment. “Thank you,” she stated matter-of-factly, as if she heard this very same affirmation daily.

I still think dancing is awkward.

Grief has been similar to dancing. It’s just awkward.

When it comes to grief you have to dance. Regardless of how awkward or torturous, you have no choice. And you cannot get off of the dance floor. Neither can you stand still. You have to get out on the floor and dance. It’s not a Grief Waltz or a Grief Fox Trot either. You could practice those carefully executed steps. It is not a pretty dance. It’s not elegant nor is it rehearsed.

Call it the Freestyle Dance of Grief.

You go with the flow. You make it up as you go. Freestyle, in the dancing world, is described as dancing without choreography. It’s dancing improvisation. It’s described as spontaneous movement—and most importantly, it is said since it’s your own original dance, there is no wrong way to dance the Freestyle dance.

But you must dance. Grief enters and you have no choice. You prefer to excuse yourself from the dance floor, but grief has instantly forced you out onto the dance floor. And it will not allow you to leave.

My smirk at the dance of grief over time has turned to a knowing smile. Not pride, so much, but gratefulness. I didn’t sit still. I didn’t get stuck. I got on the dance floor, and I danced the dance. One step forward and ten steps backward. Grace. Pivot to the left. Mercy. Slide and duck. Peace. Regroup. Love. Twirl around. Hope. Jump or hop. Comfort. Make it up as you go. Original. Most certainly, it was a Freestyle dance. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t as dignified as a Waltz. It wasn’t as well-timed as the Fox Trot. But I danced. And the Freestyle Dance of Grief is a dance all the same.

And I found the Freestyle Dance of Grief was a dance with a gracious and merciful High Priest.

Note: As of March 26, 2022, I’m learning a new dance with a new dance partner. Amanda is a beautiful gift and treasure, and the dance is the Freestyle Dance of Marriage.


  1. Anonymous

    I’m so thankful that you are dancing a new dance, and so is Amanda!

  2. Seth

    I appreciate this analogy. There are many things we don’t want to do in this life and grief has to be at the top of the list. Thank you for your brave stories, your strong dance and the model you have been for us who still have this part of our lives ahead of us.

    • D. Ray Davis

      Thank you, Seth! I appreciate your encouragement on my journey.

  3. Patti

    This is one of my favorite blogs of yours! I guess because I fit so well into the Freestyle dance of grief and life. Praying God will continue to bless you and Amanda!

    • D. Ray Davis

      Thank you, Patti. This is a sweet part of my journey!

  4. Martha

    D. Ray…this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I will print this and share with a friend who is Free Styling it as well. Blessings from your old Puppet People friend, Martha

    • D. Ray Davis

      Thank you, Martha. I heard from Phil N about your Facebook conversation. If you go to the starting page https://facinglossblog.com/ you can see the why and how of this blog. There are already about 120 entries. So click on the blog tab to see them all…https://facinglossblog.com/blog/. It’s great to hear from you…can you believe it’s been 40 years since the World’s Fair?

  5. Greg Davis

    Beautiful analogy and wonderful memory. Your post makes me think of the lyrics to this song…

    I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean

    Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens

    Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance

    And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

    I hope you dance!

    • D. Ray Davis

      I am still dancing, Greg! It isn’t always pretty, but I am dancing…

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