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HOW TO DEAL WITH THE LOSS: Ethos of Life and Grief

Life happens. In various ways, we never realise the magic happening right in front of our very eyes; that flickering, rotating eyeballs staring at us each and every day, in a friend or a loved one is all the glamour we could think of in heaven.

It is a wonder how quickly it ends. When it does, we want it back, wish it could begin again, and promise never to change anything about it. But we hate every day of our existence. Being alive sucks the very blood out of our veins and we wish for an escape from it. To a place where it can be all-right.

Robert Frost said that; “earth is the right place for love”, and he wasn’t wrong, I equally do not know where else it could get better. The mere thought of losing someone eternally, knowing that they go to a place where you have no way of reaching them, or knowing how they fare is the most terrible feeling life can present to the living.

With teary eyes and heavy hearts we stand by the graveside of those we lose and dream. We dream of all the terrific and wondrous places they could be wandering now. If we thought of them well, we conclude they are in eternal glory and resting. Or else they burn in hell, without mercy or grace. As if life is that simple.

When someone we love dies, it changes our perspectives on life. For some, it becomes the moment where later self-destructive choices are made. Others still find the rudder that turns their lives around. No amount of preparation can prepare one for the moment of grief; and as C. S Lewis puts it;

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

I have come to realise that there is no one right time for when we can understand pain or be able to endure it without going through every single agony we might have felt for the first time. For when it comes to pain, every moment feels like the first time.

Some people try to live in denial of their pain. And this Shakespeare tells us not to do; in Macbeth, we are told to “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” So we must never deny our feelings the expression of its highest moments. Grief is supposed to be observed, not so we can understand it, but so we can go and live till the day others have to grief for us. Life is a cycle.

It is often easy to hear that some people seemingly give up on life because a friend, family member or loved one died. They go into that mood of eternal gloom and despondency and in so doing thinks it pleases the dead one; that by dissolving their lives, they may be showing how much they love the person that is no more. Most men remain single for the best part of their lives just because a girlfriend died or vice versa. For such people I offer the following quote from Pablo Neruda:

“No, forgive me. If you are not living, if you, beloved, my love, if you have died, all the leaves will fall on my breast, it will rain upon my soul night and day, the snow will burn my heart, I shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow, my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall go on living, because you wanted me to be, above all things, indomitable and, love, because you know that I am not just one man but all men.”

If I loved you with all my heart and you died, “I shall go on living”. And so should you if I were to go first. Life happens, and the death of one does not mean death to all. It is important we express our condolences and bemoan the dead but should not die with them.

I am attempting here to do the utmost impossible task; offering words of consolation to a heart in pain. As Toni Morrison acknowledges, “There really are no words for that. There really aren’t.” It is a hopeless task but one that we nonetheless have to try to attempt. If I could, I would “just hug people and mop their floor or something.” It’s hard you know, very, very hard!

At times the best thing to do is just let time deal with your broken heart. By ceasing to force happiness or act as though nothing is wrong. You have to take the consoling words of Samuel Johnson to heart and “wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.”

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”

For as, Arthur Schopenhauer would say:

“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”

But we can always live and with hope find solace in another unique soul after we have lost a loved one.


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