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no words

May 25, 2012

Grief is a strange state. And it is a state of being, not a mere mood. At any moment, one is both totally immersed in it and strangely detached, observing, describing, comparing. In this state, staring mortality in the face, one becomes profoundly serious. Most of the time – in other states – we cross the street to avoid the contemplation of mortality. Perhaps we have to: otherwise, there would be no joy, no levity and silliness in life, and a little frivolity is essential to our well-being.

The death of someone we love, however, is the least frivolous event we will ever face. It commands seriousness. It encompasses everything we have been and will be. It starts a reel of memories running through one’s head and fills one’s inner ear with the voice of the person who has died. It is strangely exhausting. It touches everyone who knew that person, so that one is acutely conscious of and concerned for the grief of others, while in the middle of one’s own.

So when a kind acquaintance stops you in the street and asks how you’re doing, there is so much to tell that there is nothing to say. How do you summarise this state of being, this strange world of grief?

forget-me-nots in the garden

This post refers to the previous one, Beeches, in memoriam.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2012 1:16 am

    Sincere condolences to you and your loved ones. I was admiring the trees and just knew in my heart your FIL is looking at his life’s work with fond memory. The Forget Me Not reminded me of personal losses…how strange that such a little flower means so much to so many…

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2012 8:15 pm

      Thank you, Noelle. Funnily enough, the garden is absolutely bursting with forget-me-nots this May.

  2. May 25, 2012 2:16 am

    Oh dear. I missed reading your last post… my condolences to you and your family. I am glad that you can find comfort in all his – and your – beloved trees.
    It is a little like being a kite. You are at once floating at the mercy of the wind and yet still tethered to something, something perhaps undefinable and unseen as the people who love you try to let you go as far as possible before reeling you back in. Or the wind drops you. It can end up being a bit fearful.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2012 8:16 pm

      Thanks, Violet Sky. I like your kite metaphor.

  3. May 25, 2012 12:30 pm

    Dancing dear – I am very sorry to read this news. We recently lost a dear member of our family too. There is much strength in togetherness now, although dealing with loss and grief is ever so personal. God bless, and those fine trees will be the waiters of your memories.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2012 8:18 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear that you have recently lost someone too, Diana. It is a great comfort to have a close family, though, so we are both lucky in that respect.

  4. May 25, 2012 3:36 pm

    I always find comfort reading David Harkin´s words at the time of any bereavement, and I hope you can too:

    “You can shed tears that he is gone,
    or you can smile because he has lived.
    You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back,
    or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.
    Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him,
    or you can be full of the love you shared.
    You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
    or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
    You can remember him only that he is gone,
    or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
    You can cry and close your mind,
    be empty and turn your back.
    Or you can do what he’d want:
    smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2012 8:20 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Marianne. I think it’s important to remember and to grieve. But at last, yes, to go on with love and laughter. We have many happy, silly, funny memories to carry with us into the future.

  5. hmunro permalink
    May 25, 2012 7:39 pm

    What a beautiful, eloquent and true description of grief you’ve written, DB. There are no words that can summarize — or soothe — this state. But know that there are people all over the world at this moment who sympathize, and who care. And I’m among them. xo

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 25, 2012 8:21 pm

      I see that you recognise the state and for that you have my sympathy. Thanks so much for your heart-warming words. You always find the right ones. x

  6. May 26, 2012 12:20 am

    I think sometimes people ask the cliche ‘how are you doing’ not so much because they want the expected answer of ‘fine’ back but because they don’t know how to reach out. Like the words replace touch. They need to come in contact with that grief, or make contact with you, but the only way they know how is to ask the question. I also think there are people who ask the question that really don’t want an answer, or at least an honest answer, but I think those are few. I know I ask that question when what I really want to do is enfold the person in a hug, or sit with them and listen but they are people I don’t know well enough to do that. Finally, it’s impossible to put into words the spate of emotions inside and so it becomes simpler to say ‘fine’ because how do you name how you really feel?

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 27, 2012 5:00 pm

      You are so right, Lisa. That’s exactly how I feel, when I am the person asking the question. I don’t mean any disrespect at all to the kind people who ask. I suppose – like all of us – I just feel rather helpless in the face of the enormity of it all.

      • May 29, 2012 2:39 am

        That helplessness is the key I think, and I know what you mean about not meaning disrespect to those who ask. Sometimes it takes an awful lot of energy to respond but I know the question comes from caring.

  7. May 26, 2012 2:40 pm

    DB you have summed up eloquently the way grief changes one’s perception of and relationship with the familiar things of life and yes, it can’t be summed up easily in response to simple enquiries, however kindly and sincerely meant. You have reminded me how exhausting it is to be dealing with one’s own grief while reaching out and trying to console the grief of others and I ho hope you can find your own rest and consolation in the midst of it all.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 27, 2012 5:01 pm

      Thank you. I am so blessed to have married into a large but close family, and also to have the daily consolation of living amongst beautiful countryside. Dogs are excellent therapists too.

  8. Lisa permalink
    May 28, 2012 5:22 am

    Sometimes the spoken words are too much.I worked in a situation where death was the inevitable outcome and realized that the best thing, was to reach out a hand to touch an arm, hold it gently, give a compassionate smile, and move on,hopefully letting the eyes convey the words.
    At the funeral of a much loved and very dear friend, there were these words..
    Time is too slow for those who wait
    Too swift for those who fear
    Too long for those who grieve
    Too short for those who rejoice
    But for those who love, time is eternity’

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