Last week I was writing about love.
This week, it’s grief and loss. The other side of the coin.
Nine years ago on February 25th, my husband died. He had spent 10 days in the acute ward of the hospital and 8 days in palliative care. It was sudden, quick, aggressive and, in one way, merciful. For him, maybe. But not for me.
I miss him every day — and yet still feel his presence.
A few weeks ago, a man with whom I’d been friends for 50 years died, after a long illness. Since then, two other dear friends were rushed to hospitals in Victoria and Vancouver. Last week I learned that the wife of another long-time friend is in palliative care. Grief and loss are very much on my mind.
As Edgar says in King Lear, Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither. We must all endure the loss of those we love, and grief is the other side of love. As George Saunders said in a Five Dials (Number 10) tribute to his friend, David Foster Wallace, Grief is the bill that comes due for love.
For me, it feels like a lifelong mortgage that I’ll never be able to pay off.
I’m not one of those who often talk about the silver linings of the pandemic. I do think that we’re all learning a great deal and that many of us are connecting more, and with more people, than ever before. But I also know that there’s a lot of grief and loss at this time.
It’s especially sad for those who, bereaved and grieving, are unable to have family and friends gather round. We aren’t able to participate in memorials to speak of those we have loved and lost. Nothing makes a deep loss go away, but some things make it even harder to bear.
What to do about it? The most poignant poem I know about grief is Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47536/one-art). It’s well worth reading the whole poem. She writes about the many losses she has endured, noting that many were not too hard to master. Yet she acknowledges that others seem disastrous:
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like ( it!) like disaster.
When Bishop says (Write it!) ,I believe she’s speaking about the absolute need to give words to the loss.
As McDuff says in Macbeth, The grief that does not speak whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break.
We’re all suffering from grief and loss as a result of this pandemic. We know that we must endure whatever hardships it brings, but it’s essential that, at the same time, we express the grief and loss we’re feeling.
Otherwise, our hearts will surely break.