Come meander with me on the pathless path of the Heart
in these anecdotal,
sometimes inspiring, sometimes personal meanderings of the Heart's opening in the every-day-ness of life...

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Grief as it is - Joan Didion

 Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.
We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die,
but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that
immediately follow such an imagined death.  We misconstrue
the nature of even those few days or weeks.

We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock.  We do
not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both
body and mind.  We might expect that we will be prostrate,
inconsolable, crazy with loss.  We do not expect to be
literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband
 is about to return and need his shoes.

In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." 
A certain forward movement will prevail.  The worst days will
be the earliest days.  We imagine that the moment to most
severely test us will be the funeral, after which the hypothetical
healing will take place.  When we anticipate the funeral we
wonder about failing to "get through it," rise to the occasion,
exhibit the "strength" that invariably gets mentioned as the
correct response to death.

We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I
be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I
be able even to get dressed that day?  We have no way of
knowing that this will not be the issue.  We have no way of 
knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of
narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of
others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion.

Nor can we know ahead of of the fact (and here lies the
heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it
and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the
void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession
of moments during which we will confront the experience
of meaninglessness itself.

Joan Didion
From: The Year of Magical Thinking
with thanks to Death Deconstructed

Joan suddenly lost her husband from a heart attack as they
 sat down to dinner after being at the hospital with their
deathly ill daughter.


Personal Note: My mother suddenly lost my father to a fatal
heart attack back in 1985, just 7 yrs after quintuple by-pass surgery.
 He was sitting in his chair in the living room in the middle of the
 night, unable to sleep, after returning from a road trip to the
 east coast to see family - which evidently proved to be too
stressful for his heart. My mother had gone to bed and dreamed
 that she had lost her right arm.  She woke up at around 3am to
find him dead in his chair...  Attempts to resuscitate him failed.
She basically sleep-walked through the next year, often
standing in the kitchen watching for his car to come down
the dirt road...  I can't imagine what that must have been like,
although I have known grief from many other kinds of losses...
And the world now continues in a collective grief from
the millions of deaths due to COVID... So many lives
impacted...  No matter what our "spiritual" beliefs are
about death, or whether there is life after death or not...
 we are still all impacted by death or loss both
personally and collectively...


Photo from the Internet

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