Grief has taught me so many things: how precious our close relationships are, even after they come apart. And how love is all that matters, really – we are all awash with love, alight with love, shaped and transformed by love. Taught, daily, by love. After all, who knows what will happen to the world? To anyone we know? To us? Maybe the best we can do is soften the rough edges of this motley, ragged and curious journey – with love.
It’s been over 7 years since my dear Aunt Min left this world. Hard to believe. Her death, and the continuing presence of our time together, and our little “love room,” still inform my life in many ways. I am here in Louisiana, for a while, because of her. I make my way forward with a kind of feisty humor, with her example. She was certainly not a saint, or at least not any more than the rest of us are everyday saints. But she was alive, curious, open-minded, and yet faithful to her beliefs and observations. She was spirited. She worked hard. She loved, and marveled at, life.
Jane Brody’s article on understanding grief in the Personal Health section of the New York Times (Jan. 15th, 2018) offers a new perspective on loss. As ragged and raw as it can be, Brody notes, “grief is not a problem to be solved or resolved. Rather, it’s a process to be tended and lived through in whatever form and however long it may take.”
Brody recommends two authors who write about grief and encourage us not to hurry, or try to “fix,” the problem. Megan Devine (“It’s OK that you’re not OK”) and Julia Samuel (“Grief Works: stories of life, death, and surviving”) offer perspectives that can shift our personal experiences and our cultural expectations of grief. Devine hopes that “if we can start to understand the true nature of grief, we can have a more helpful, loving, supportive culture.”
As Brody notes, relatively few of us know what to say or do that can be truly helpful to a relative, friend or acquaintance who is grieving. In fact, relatively few who have suffered a painful loss know how to be most helpful to themselves.
In my own journey, grief is not just a “wrong” or “problematic” thing, but a terrible grace that continues to shed a rarefied light on every step I take into the future. In the lingering love room, I continue to live – with loss, with sadness, with disbelief, with the presence of my beloved who is gone (but not quite totally). Perhaps, as a culture, we are shifting toward a gentler and more realistic take on this mysterious reality in which our “love rooms” soften our journeys forward, our beloveds shine their particular light upon us, and we are never really alone.