A couple of years ago, my family experienced a tragic and unexpected loss. For reasons that are still rather murky, my 14-year-old nephew decided that life was too difficult to continue living. The night after receiving the news, I could not sleep, so I got up and pounded out some of my thoughts on the keyboard.
In Memory of Victor
Grief is an interesting emotion. Initially, human nature tends to avoid grief. It is a painful experience, a powerful feeling that is rarely remembered with fondness. That being true, it is also one of the most necessary and common of all emotions. In this transitory existence, grief is the one emotion that all caring beings must at one time or another share. At the core of this painful emotion is nothing more than what some may argue is the very reason for our existence: Love. For one to feel grief at the passing of another there must have been at least a semblance of love. Conversely, in order to feel any kind of love for another, there must have been some sort of reciprocation, meaning that in order to truly love, you must also have been loved. Life without grief would also be life without love and what kind of life would we live without love? Even the dumb beasts are known to express grief, or at the very least confusion when confronted with the loss of a companion. Perhaps I am attributing too much human emotion to these instinctive acts, but I am confident that in their own way, they are experiencing similar feelings of love for another being and grief at the loss of that love.
When faced with the discontinuation of a loving relationship -- for any reason -- there must necessarily be a period of grief. Those who manage to avoid or block out this mandatory mourning period will inevitably suffer from other spiritual maladies until the grief can be faced and dealt with. It is much healthier to simply immerse oneself in the pain, to feel each and every pang, with gratitude for its cleansing power and for the unspoken truth that it provides: That I have loved and was loved. It is an old cliché that "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all." It could be inferred also from this same saying, that it is better to have grieved than to never have had anything to grieve for. The very act of loving another subjects us to the certainty that someday, according to the temporary nature of this existence, we may be called upon to grieve for the loss of the object of our love.
How does one then face this grief, and how does one then learn to draw strength and reinforcement from such a hollow and lonely feeling? Memories can sustain us, and help us to remember why we loved the one we have lost. Performing acts of grief, such as memorials to the lost one can help us to see purpose in the loss.
Finding purpose in the loss is possibly the most important way to accept the feeling of grief. Although we cannot always see the end from the beginning, we can make it our goal to look for, or try to create a meaning from the loss. We can dedicate ourselves to a cause in the name of the lost love, we can perform good deeds in their name, we can even do no more than commit to remembering the things about them that we loved. Each of these things can help to assure us that the loss is not in vain. To assure us that the loss we feel and the grief that we accept and welcome into our lives will create in us an increase in strength, in goodness, and in hope for the future. Instead of creating a fear of loving, lest we again experience grief, it will allow us to search out opportunities for grief as we welcome new loves into our lives.
The phrase that one was "eaten up with grief" implies that a person let this feeling act as a destructive force; that they made the choice to allow this terrible sadness to work in them a tendency to avoid love, to dread the future, even to decrease the opportunities for happiness in this life. If Love is the basis of happiness in this life, and we allow grief to persuade us to avoid love in the future, then we are also allowing grief to persuade us to avoid happiness in this life.
Some may feel guilty feeling happiness at a time when a loved one has departed. It certainly seems counter-intuitive to seek to enjoy grief, or to celebrate the feeling of grief as a symbol of the love that we have experienced. But if we consider how true love would evaluate the same situation, it is easy to see that neither party to a loving relationship would wish for the other to feel anything but happiness and continuing love. To abandon the quest for future and present love and thereby happiness simply because of the loss of one source of love is also counterintuitive.
We live to love. There is no higher purpose. The first gift we were ever given by our Father in Heaven was love. He loved us enough to first, create us spiritually, and then, to create for us a mortal dwelling place. Once we had a home He created for us bodies to occupy while living on this earth. He even loved us enough to allow His Son to suffer and die that we may live again. And He loves us enough to allow us to feel that same feeling of love for our brothers and sisters here on this earth. This gift of the ability to love He certainly understands comes with the possibility of loss and grief. As we have been taught, there must be adversity in all things. Love would not be so sweet if it was not contrasted with the bitterness of grief. Just as love makes grief inevitable, grief makes love possible. A feeling only has value if there is the possibility of it being taken away. Anything that does not have the possibility of loss is soon taken for granted and its value as a source of happiness is also lost.
Grief is an interesting dichotomy of pain and happiness. To give in to it and allow it control is to surrender to darkness and despair. To welcome it and explore it and understand it is to begin a necessary process of healing.
We avoid it at our own emotional peril.
-- Tyler Willson