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“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break.” ― William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”
The older you get, the more grief will become part of your life.
It’s like an old sweater on the back of the chair. You find yourself reaching for it more and more, putting it on and wrapping it around you, smelling that familiar wistful smell, feeling the damp spots where the tears have fallen.
Like it, you are more worn and frayed with each wearing.
I’ve been thinking about grief lately. My sister would have been 65 today had cancer not taken her from us this year. I know that sometime today, I will have the impulse to call her, as I have on every one of her birthdays. When that moment comes, I’ll pull the old sweater back on.
I’ll put it on as well for the little dog we lost just four weeks ago.
What you also realize, as you get older, is that everyone is grieving something, and some more than others. No matter if you’re grieving death, the dissolution of a relationship, the loss of a physical or mental ability, it’s all painful and worth mourning.
But grief makes people uncomfortable. If you are grieving, sometimes you have to face the world from behind a façade, so as not to make other people uneasy. It’s not that people don’t want you to grieve, it’s that they care about you and want you to feel better. Unfortunately, you can’t just flick a switch and make that happen.
No matter if you’re grieving death, the dissolution of a relationship, the loss of a physical or mental ability, it’s all painful and worth mourning.
One of the best companions to grief I’ve found this year is the “After Life” series on Netflix, created by British comedian Ricky Gervais.
It’s rooted in grief, but also laughter, love and humanity.
Gervais plays Tony, a man who is trying to hold himself together after losing his wife, Lisa, to breast cancer.
“I miss her so much,” he says in one episode. “I’m just sad all the time. I’m not the person I was. Lisa dying, it’s like, I lost most of me — all the good stuff, all the happiness. I feel like I’m nothing, you know?”
And that’s a big part of loss. You don’t just lose the person (or pet or relationship), you lose who you were within that relationship. You are doubly bereft, missing someone very important in your life who you loved, and also missing the part of yourself that no longer exists in the same way.
And of course, if you are mourning someone who has died, your loss is nothing compared to theirs.
Kathy Parker, an Australian poet with a blog called “The Girl Unravelled,” writes about how grief can make you feel undone.
Like Gervais’ character in “After Life,” she has come to the realization that the best thing you can do with all the love bottled up by your loss is to share it with others. She writes:
“Grief changes us.
“Grief breaks us.
“Grief is love with no place to go.
“And so in our grief, the only thing to do is to give our love a place to go.…
“Love one another so fiercely that our love is spent, that our chests are no longer hollow, that the lump in our throats hurts a little less.”
Of all the things I have learned about grief, a quote from British psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes strikes me most profoundly.
He writes: “The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love; it is, perhaps, the price we pay for love…”
If you are grieving a death, try thinking about it from that point of view. Was it worth all the pain for the joy of having had them in your life?
The answer is always yes.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email [email protected] Twitter: pam_frampton