The experience of grief is not something we would ask for. Grief does not ask for our permission to exist.
Grief is not only losing something or someone outside of our selves. When we lose someone we love, we lose a part of ourselves. It is heartrending.
Steeped in our everyday exchanges , we are sublimated not to think about death. In my Chinese tradition, some might say it’s bad luck to speak about dying. In response, we say “Choi,” in Cantonese, to ward off the words – or even just having those thoughts – articulated.
You could say that reckoning with grief is like trying to stare at the sun. If you look at it directly, it blinds you. But, it illuminates everything. Our world revolves around it.
That’s because Grief has a twin called Love.
Someone who has worked in palliative care and author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul Stephen Jenkinson says this,
“Grief is a way of loving that which has slipped from view…
and love is a way of grieving that which it has not yet done so.”
And if we can stand in the sun and take this in for a minute, I believe this will lead us to a place of love again.
Put another way, befriending grief on a daily basis passes us through a threshold from floating along in live to a certain sense of wakefulness.
Like the emphasis we give to our dental hygiene, what we need now is a society of individuals who values and engages in the process of waking up on daily – twice a day.
Wakefulness is the hidden prerequisite to presence.
And what constitutes this contemplation of daily waking up? To be a practitioner of grief.
This is not a grim and austere exercise. Instead, it rends our hearts open to reality… a reality that doesn’t need our consent, that life is finite. Because of its finality, evermore the poignancy of our living.
Buy a flower and put it on your dining table. Its presence differs to a plastic creation. The living flower will wither, the fake models what’s real, but never so. Yet, the flower’s existence penetrates into our consciousness (and if we learn to take it in) of both its temporalness and its gravity of beauty.
A way to grief is to slow down time to love, and a way to love is to befriend grief.
See related: Love’s Near Other–Loss