Death, loss, grief.

My best friend from high school lost her father last week, she and her four sisters. He had not been the best dad, as they all stated, but he was their dad, nonetheless. Death took him from them, at 66 years of age, sooner than any one should have to lose a person that they love.

The loss of him, as far as the impact on her and her family, has not left me. Maybe because we are the same age, and I still have both of my parents living. Maybe because I think about losing my own parents on a fairly regular basis. Maybe because as my daughter grows, and me and my beloved age, it seems that death gets closer and closer to our lives.

Whatever the reason, I am thinking about death, and loss, and losing those that we love the most. And, the grief that comes to reside after such a loss has occurred.

I remember when my beloved paternal grandmother died. I absolutely adored her. I looked forward to my visits with her, I loved to sit with her, I loved to hold her secrets of eating chips and tuna loaded with mayo for lunch, even when she was forbidden to do so because of her terrible diabetes. I kept those secrets close.

When she was dying of cancer, a cancer that she seemed cured of a couple of times, a cancer that wracked her body and stole her spirit, I was visiting her shortly after Christmas. I was home from college on break, and we were at her home. She was sitting in her recliner in the front window, with an afghan over her. I was kneeling beside her on the floor, just looking into her eyes. They were SO BLUE; I had never noticed before. And, she said to me, “I am ready to die”.

I was nineteen. I couldn’t respond; I couldn’t bear to hear the words. I knew her death was imminent, yet I felt burdened to have to be the one to hear those words. My nana, leaving me?

Grief. For a year, I thought that I would never stop acutely missing her; never stop shedding tears; never stop dreaming about her. Eventually, I did. I miss those dreams now. I guess it was my psyche’s way of letting go, accepting the loss of the body of her, but not the memory or the spirit.

And, today it hit me. When I thought about my friends’ father, when I now think about the loss of my grandmother, my other grandmother, my brother, I realize what grief really is.

Grief is directly proportional to the love that we feel for that person that has died. Maybe, even put to the nth power. Grief compounds that love, builds on it with interest. Indeed, there is that initial, hero worship type of grief, in which we view that person as having been all powerful, with no humanness, all godlikeness.

Then, we start to heal, just the tiniest bit, and we realize that each person that we lose to death, in that very humanness that we resist in the beginning, in that humanness is all the love that our hearts can hold. When we remember them with humor, with frustration, with joy, with anger, that is when the love flows.

Because isn’t that how love is anyway?

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10 thoughts on “Death, loss, grief.

  1. It is in moments like that, when we lose a dear one, that we actually realize how short life is and fast time flies. We realize we never said the words we meant to say, never did what we kept putting off.
    When my granny died about six years ago, I felt so bereft that I couldn’t sleep at night. Images and words from the past kept haunting me. Then something very unusual happened, which I suppose was a product of my tormented mind, but still I will never forget it. As I lay in bed with my eyes open unable to fall asleep, I had a vision of my granny. In the vision she was probably 20 years younger than she actually was at the time of her death. She was so real, I could feel her presence in the room. She was wearing clothes I hadn’t seen her wear in years. Then she spoke to me in her own voice, softly and gently and she told to calm down and that it was only the natural course of the universe and death was an inevitable outcome after all. There was nothing to worry about. After that I fell asleep, but I remembered it very clearly when I woke up in the morning. I’m not sure what it was, but it felt like my grandma was saying her last good bye.

  2. Hey Shiona:

    What a beautiful experience for you. Yes, I also believe that those that leave us through death don’t really leave us, and they often will come around to help us heal. I remember about a year or two after my nana died, I saw a woman on the street, that looked exactly like her. It took my breath away, it was so sudden, and so HER. I think it helped me. ANd, I also think she was trying to tell me that day, with her blue eyes, to let go and that all would be well.

    And, of course, she was right.

  3. I’ve been reading a book titled, Ambiguous Loss, about grief when a person is lost to you but hasn’t died (alzheimer’s, a failed relationship, etc). I have a loss like that in my larger family and it is very challenging. I’m afraid I’m a bit stuck in the “can’t do anything but stare out the window” stage, but I take comfort that people grow thru these kinds of losses and the grief will abate. It’s just a lot tough to feel so “stuck.” Thanks for this post, it helps.

  4. your views are beautiful… I lost my father over 3 years ago… he was 58… it came suddenly… and I hurt for a long time… the pain subsides, and just barely nags on my heart… but yes, grief is love in its strongest, rawest, most painful form… and the dreams, the ones in which they are still alive… only to awaken to the truth… they show the power of love…

    I find this essay interesting in the details you define… thank you for your views

  5. Hey Tiny:

    Sounds like a great read; indeed, we often experience grief in losses that are not deaths of the physical body. Sometimes, I am not sure which is the most intense kind of grief, depends on the circumstance, of course. I have had both in my life, on various occasions, and both have been filled with pain, and with immense love. I wish you peace through this. Love V.

  6. enreal:

    “grief is love in its strongest, rawest, most painful form”.

    How true this is; raw and strong, and extremely painful. Yet, so healing for me at the same time. It brings so close the realization of what love exists for those people and circumstances that are lost. I have been understanding as I wrote this, that what pains me the most about anticipating death and loss of those that I love, is the missing of that person that I experience. That is the challenge for me.

    Thank you for visiting, as always, it is a pleasure. Vanessa

  7. Vanessa. Wow. Thanks for sharing your emotions, feelings, thoughts related to your experience of death. I felt moved reading that. Thank you.

    I developed a “health opportunity” aka illness, though i don’t like that term, several years ago. It brought death more to the forefront of my daily experience. Although I don’t obsess about it, it is definitly more a part of my every day waking life.

    I highly recommend a book called Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (not Tibetan Book of the Dead). There is alot of good stuff in it. And if you ever wanted an amazing read, Grace and Grit by Ken Wilbur. Wow. What an amazing (gut=wrenching) read.

    Wish we could have tea. It is a cool rainy weekend here in Boulder, Co. Has been raining since Friday. Very unusual for us. A tea kind of day.

  8. Molly:

    Thank you so much for the visit, and I am so glad that you got something out of this post. I think about death more than ever now, with myself and those around me aging. I am trying to gain understanding so that it doesn’t feel so frightening to me. Thank you for the book suggestion, I will check it out.

    And, as far as tea goes, I can envision us sharing a cup one day; I want my life to be full of such events with those that inspire me! Have a tremendous day. Vanessa

  9. I had a realy busy time last Months and I missed visiting all my friends and all those blogs with wise words… today, I spend a great deal at the computer, drinking in all the words, looking at pictures (and trying to solve riddles… yes, been to your daughters blog too!) I hope to visit you more often from now on and I sure hope you are alright (this post is almost a month old… are you OK?)

  10. Marit: Thank you so much for your visit! I am terrific; time has gotten away from me and my blog reading and writing; but I am well. Thanks for visiting my daughter’s spot as well; she was thrilled!!!! Peace to you! Vanessa

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