Weeping For Our Delight: The powerful link between love and grief

When I was 26, my mother died. It was a difficult death. She suffered and longed to leave, but lingered, in pain and semi-consciousness.

My last act as a daughter was to give her sips of water and promise to miss her…and to finish my education. I have accomplished both. The education part came in starts and spurts, with long breaks in between, when my resolve waned. But eventually, I ended up with two master’s degrees. The missing her, however, has been near constant.

We are often taught that the pain of losing someone eventually dissolves, and all we are left with is memories, devoid of sadness or longing. But the truth is we are forever changed by significant loss, and the pain of that loss can revisit us again and again, albeit in more tempered doses.

For me, each phase of life has brought renewed awareness of my mother’s absence and pain in the realization of that void. When I got married, when I graduated from college, when I began a new career, I felt the loss again acutely. When I am struggling, confused or lonely, I long for her. But always, I am aware that I am motherless, and always, I miss her.

Grief is a reflection of how much we have loved. When we love deeply, the loss will stay with us, for the rest of our lives. This is not dysfunction, but a manifestation of our ability to bond with and love another.

Khalil Gibran expresses this idea with grace in his master work, The Prophet:

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.”

It is true that the intense, all-encompassing pain of grief does diminish with time when we allow ourselves to experience it rather than pushing it away. Eventually, grief’s physical symptoms (lack of energy, nausea, crying, lump in the throat, etc.), the inability to concentrate, the anger, (even rage sometimes), the guilt (often unjustified), the isolation, the hazy feeling of unreality, all these will fade and you will return your energies to life and other relationships.

But, there is no cure for grief. It is only converted from the acute to the chronic. And, this is really chronic love, manifesting as sorrow, which clings throughout the years. You have loved and so you mourn. You are human and so you grieve.

Here is one of my favorite poems about embracing and accepting grief.

Talking to grief

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

By: Denise Levertov

For more information about grief or to find support contact Winterspring Center for Loss and Grief.

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