Our culture doesn’t give us easy permission to mourn. Its underlying ethos is that we move on quickly from loss and hurt, keep our griefs quiet, remain strong always and get on with life.
But mourning is something that’s vital to our health, something we owe to ourselves. Without mourning, our only choice is to grow hard and bitter in the face of disappointment, rejection and loss. And these will always make themselves felt.
We have many things to mourn in life. We are forever losing people and things. Loved ones die, relationships die, friends move away, a marriage falls apart, a love we want but can’t have obsesses us, a dream ends in disappointment, our children grow away from us, jobs are lost, and so too one day our youth and health. Beyond these many losses that ask for our grief there’s the need to grieve the simple inadequacy of our lives, the perfect symphony and consummation that we could never have. Like Jephthah’s daughter, all of us have to mourn our inconsummation.
How? How do we mourn so that our mourning is not an unhealthy self-indulgence but a process that restores us to health and buoyancy?
There’s no simple formula; it’s different for everyone. Grieving, like loving, has to respect our unique reticence, what we’re comfortable with and not comfortable with. But some things are the same for all of us.
First, there’s the need to accept and acknowledge both our loss and the pain which with we’re left. Denial of either, loss or pain, is never a friend. The frustration and helplessness within which we find ourselves must be accepted, and accepted with the knowledge that there’s no place to put the pain except, as Rainer Maria Rilke says, to give it back to earth itself, to the heaviness of the oceans from which ultimately comes the saltwater which makes up our tears. Our tears connect us still to the oceans that spawned us.
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