A recent death in my family – the latest in what seems like a bad season for us – has provoked some musings about this haphazard procession of events we call Life.
Is there any novel thing one can say in response to the death of a loved one (whether parent, spouse, child or friend)?
Grief, it seems, is a path we must each tread.
Tributes and memorials from the pyramids to the Taj Mahal, from the Book of Psalms to WH Auden and Leonard Cohen have canvassed the territory of grief and remembrance. Yet still, it seems, the experience has to be borne to be truly known.
The wisest words I ever heard about grief were from a poet who’d lost his wife: “The only thing grief can bear is companionship.”
Not counselling, not distraction, not cheering up. No attempted encouragement to ‘snap out of it’ is welcome, he’d learnt (as many have), however disguised and with whatever high motive or good intention.
I know what he means. Shallow platitudes and ‘personal growth’ or ‘time will heal’-type language sounds dissonant and heavy-handed.
Yet, I appreciate a simple word of support or care, a brief expression of sympathy or consciouness of my plight.
Like so many others before me, I have learned that in grief at times I feel shattered, I feel stressed, I feel angry, I feel sludgy and unmotivated. I am not properly connected to the world, I feel wooly, misty and vague. At times I am sad.
So be it.
What’s your experience?