“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”
~ Jamie Anderson
Is it though?
A friend of mine shared this quote recently and it got me thinking. I’ve come to acknowledge and wonder about our culture’s need to resolve everything into love. Have you ever noticed that? Why can’t grief be grief? Is it easier to accept and understand when we talk, write and feel about it as if it is love? It’s not. It’s grief.
In our culture, we have a profoundly stunted emotional vocabulary and an aversion to emotional complexity or potency. Additionally we suffer from a deep aversion to that which is uncomfortable, painful, unpleasant and difficult. Grief is grief: a practice of honouring the limited and finite nature of our reality – everything ends – and living as if those endings are legitimate, needed and meaningful.
Grief doesn’t have to be understood in terms of loss. It doesn’t have to include sadness or mournfulness (although these emotions are often present while practicing grief) and it certainly isn’t that which is left unexpressed or has nowhere to go. – To me that describes the inability to grieve.
I have only a rudimentary ability to talk about grief precisely because of the underdevelopment of our culture. I would prefer to wonder about grief without using the word love. I think we would learn much more from the effort.
I read a description of grief (I can’t quite be sure of the reference or I would site it) as The God of Endings. This spoke to me. Although, if I had to ascribe grief a gender, she seems female to me, so I’d probably call it The Goddess of Endings.
Or how about The Council of Endings?
Grief: The Council of Endings
This council has real authority in our lives, we are required to appear before it regularly. Sometimes we submit willingly. Sometimes we are dragged kicking and screaming. But we must contend with it, wrestle and struggle with it. We must comply and endure, learn and heal. We must be made by our experience with The Council of Endings. This is grief.
Perhaps there are cultures (I am sure there are or have been many) where our relationship with The Council begins early. We are introduced to it as a needed and valued part of life. We are taught how to communicate with it – energetically, ritually, symbolically and with a shared and recognizable vocabulary. We are shown how to relate to its procedures, scrutiny, requirements and pronouncements. We are shown how to navigate its strange landscape of sacrifices and blessings, both expected and unexpected.
And as each negotiation and navigation is complete, perhaps we are left with a hole in our experience in the shape of the relationship that was the foundation of our lives or maybe we are ushered with celebration into a new phase of growth or development. The Council of Endings having done its work for the moment, recedes into a companionable stride beside us. Always present and a part of our journey. Always somewhere nearby, building towards the next ending.
Because this is life being itself. This is life, here on this planet. Grief is a practice of weaving ourselves deeply into what life is and being shaped, instructed and supported by it.