On Grieving

At Athens & Jerusalem, Withywindle uses Flavia’s meditations on the grieving process as a springboard for some thoughts of his own. Since Withy was kind enough to namecheck my Fryedolatry, I reckon I may as well join in the discussion.

As it happens, and as some of you will recall, I can’t swing a cat through my life these days without hitting some grief, and because my particular circumstances involve the slow-champing maw of the legal system, we may not even reach a Churchillian “end of the beginning” until September and the trial, more than two years after my parents’ murders. Indeed, I received still another dose over the past week, via the Cincinnati media. And of course, there are other, more distant losses to grieve as well.

Flavia makes what I think is an important point:

We do not wish to hear that the widow remarries quickly, because we take it as a sign that she wasn’t really so very content in her long, companionate marriage. But we also, and perhaps even more strongly, do not wish to hear that the happily repartnered man still thinks about his ex daily, and somewhat wistfully–because we assume that means he’s not really so happy in his new relationship (and would take back his ex in a minute if he could). Usually, neither is true. The past lives with us, sometimes for a long while, and not being “over” something has nothing to do with being unable to move forward.

I would add to that a quote from James Ellroy: “Closure is bullshit.” I don’t believe that time makes grief better — like my fellow Southerner once said, not only is the past not dead, it isn’t even past. What time makes grief is quieter, for me, anyway. I’m grieving every day, but it doesn’t drown out as many of the sounds of the world as it did in 2009. It’s a constant tone that marks a boundary between before and after, and I can no more leave it behind than I could leave behind a joyous boundary event in my life like the birth of my daughter. Just as I will always be the Spawn’s father — and just as I thank God for that on a daily basis — so I will always be a survivor of murdered parents, with whatever that brings.

As it happens, I also have some hearing loss, doubtless the result of playing drums for 30+ years. There are frequencies and acuity I’ve lost, and I think that what is happening with my grief is like that. I still hear, and I still live, but I hear things differently now, and I always will, and my ears and heart will never stop ringing. But I accept that, as the alternative might be not to hear at all.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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6 Responses to On Grieving

  1. MikeC says:

    For me, grief is a wheelbarrow of rocks. It NEVER gets lighter, but you get more used to doing it. My grief group always talks about ‘the new normal’ which is as good a phrase as any.

  2. bluesun says:

    The hearing loss comparison is good. It’s not that grief doesn’t hurt, but it seems over time you get used to it, and to people yelling a little louder to get your attention. It’s still hard, though, when you remember how things used to sound.

  3. Withywindle says:

    I was thinking of you when I wrote the post. In part, I meant it to say that I pray you will find, not closure, but a resurrection of the soul, that transforms grief rather than just dulling it.

  4. Kate P says:

    Yes, there totally are “boundary events”–life is a continuum, even though sometimes we wish we could just make stopping and restarting points unconnected to each other. This is a bit timely in a way for me personally, as I got an unexpected reminder of a loss (one of the biggest in my life) last weekend, though not a death. I was so stunned to read about the loss of your parents, Prof. I frequently pray for those grieving the loss of loved ones, and I’ll remember you, too.

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