Tears seem to be losing their high-ranking among the range of acceptable behaviours. And grief too is outdated or, rather, the outward display of it – in our culture that is so busy encouraging us to live and where the family at large, so fractured, hardly represents our main support system anymore, whenever we experience a life altering loss we are more often than not asked to get back into it, not to dwell on the past, to let go. And we all seem to go along with this nonsense for fear of what? being judged too weak, too inadequate?

A few days ago a friend described to me the unbearable and mind-boggling experience of watching her younger sister take her last breath. How do you wrap your head around such loss, such inexplicable injustice, such drastic change in your everyday routine? The common refrain is that it takes time but we are hardly capable of giving us time. And time might soften the blow, might make it recede it eventually but hardly ever does it erase it which is why it’s so important we stop sweeping death under our emotional carpet. If throwing ourselves in distracting activities might help us not go crazy from the mind numbing pain, I believe the scales have tipped over too much on the side of distraction.

There was a time when death was honored, respected even, through long periods of mourning, extended family gatherings, elaborate rituals and the display of grief was welcomed, if not encouraged. Every religion has its traditions and, even a non believer like me, can recognize the usefulness of “organizing” grief. Now it pains me to see people uncomfortable in front of others’ tears and sadness – someone recently said to me “I just don’t know what to do when someone starts crying in front of me”. I don’t believe we are expected to do anything in such circumstances – just opening the space to receive the sadness and the tears by merely being there and acknowledging them might be enough. To be entrusted with someone else’s pain should be an honor and all we can do is hope to be worthy of it.


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2 responses to “GRIEF

  1. silvia

    It’s noon and I am chilling and the bad weather is not helping me: I just came home from a funeral. A collegue of mine lost her father for a heart attack. She’s only 29 and it’s simply not right to lose someone so dear so young. There was a lot of grief in that church and your post arrives with perfect timing.
    The first thing that I feel watching her crying is thank’s God it’s not my turn – selfishness is always around the corner – and the second after I’m hugging her with all the strenght that I have in the helpless effort to try to take away a small portion of that pain from her, to let her feel the warmth of my body and let her know that I’m there. And the minute I hug her I understand that there is no separation that I can feel exactly her pain as if mine eventhough she’s a recent friend and I didn’t know her father.
    I am sure that every single human being can prove empathy. The only problem I see, as you wisely suggested, is that we live in a society where men and women are kept far away from sorrow – as well as death, the ultimate grief – by cultural and social models that make us avoid to look our weaknesses straight in the eyes. The only truth that I constantly experience is how fragile we are and untill we are not open to admit it, I’m afraid that Roland Barthes will be right for a long time ahead. In his book “Myth today” he states that gods no longer exist because men have replaced them in the self-deception of being immortal. And how can you feel pain if you are immortal? How can you reach others if you think that you are separate from them and not part of the same destiny sooner or later?
    Weeping can be a such a blessing if we open our hearts and get in contact with our inner self. And- as you saiad- we should be honoured to hold other’s sorrow. One day someone will take in ours.

  2. alan

    yep ! i lost two daughters and you’re right on

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