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A Sorrowful Tale

One of the stories I think we may need to tell a bit better in our culture is grief. For grief is a beautiful thing, a facet of love, and it deserves to be told wisely, fully, in all its wild loveliness.

I grew weary a long time ago of the relentless positivity imposed upon women. Count your blessings. Always look on the bright side. Be strong, be fierce, let nothing get you down. Have a survivor mentality, not a victim one. All these things are good in moderation, but too often they deny us our pain. They do not give us permission to lament. To suffer. To crawl away into the deep soil of our souls so that we may rest.

Do you know how often I've seen women having to be taught how to grieve what some awful crime has done to them? About as often as I've seen men bewildered by themselves because their grief process doesn't fit the various official stages of mourning. About as often as I've noticed the judging looks given to parents who confess they grieve not having a daughter, or an able-bodied child, or a second child, or the experience of parenthood they always dreamed about. As if grief somehow negates love.

Even if we are told there's no right way to grieve (apart from the five stages*, which are seven stages on some websites) - we still hear things like, is he marrying again so soon? and why is she not crying? When my beloved cat Bella died, I couldn't be in the same room. It was too much for me, and I had to leave her in other people's caring hands. I could not bear to see her afterwards either, and her body was buried on my behalf. That was what I needed. It tells you nothing about my love for her though - it's been twenty years and I still grieve the loss of her. When Radical Honey's cat died recently, she went through a warm and soulful process which culminated in one of the most beautiful burials I've ever heard about. Grief is normal, but it can not be normalised. It makes my heart ache when I hear people say it's okay that you're in the denial phase, or the bargaining phase. Let grief be wild and wise. And let no one give you permission for it - just do it, phaseless, beautiful, terrible, for all the wrong reasons or all the right ones.

And fear not to weave grief-strands through your story of life and selfhood. Sorrowing for what you don't have does not negate gratitude for what you do have. It just allows you to be full-souled.

Let me tell you, I grieve that I was born in my particular country. I try to find the beauty here, the magic, but really I wish I lived elsewhere, for many reasons. Any story I tell about my home is woven through with that sorrow and longing. If I didn't allow my grief, then my telling would not be wholly true.

I will count my blessings. And I will weep.

* Elizabeth Kubler-Ross regretted that people took her description of five common experiences of grief 
and made them into a framework for the grieving process, 
rather than a simple recognition of what some people feel in the face of loss.

1 comment:

  1. truly spoken. grief gets pushed aside often because people are uncomfortable in its presence. and because, as you observed, there is so much focus on "positivity" and "empowerment"... but we cannot know life without knowing grief. and grief looks very different from person to person, situation to situation. and pushing grief aside leaves a weariness, a sort of spirit hole that tugs at us. it's like lying to oneself, exhausting.


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