Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Language and Grief

Riffs on Grief 2

Grief feels like a tree that has been hit by lightning.

If we don’t express our grief, it will burn us away until we are hollow people.

The limitations of language should not put limits on grief. If the language you know gets in the way, set it aside and create your own.

Grief is a pre-Industrial emotion. That was when society knew how to grieve properly.

When we hear people who’ve never lost anyone tell us that grief will be over in a month, we expect this to be true. Then death comes and we discover this is a lie. Society wants us back at work, and our friends want us back to being who we were. There is no going back. There’s only going forward, with eyes now open.

Those who grieve are forced to gather in speakeasies in back alleys because society has reduced grief to whispers and furtive glances. 

When we sit down at night and write about the day’s sorrow, we try words out to see which ones feel right. It’s like being in an eye doctor’s office — “Is the focus sharper with A or B. With B or C.” 

Every time we talk to someone about grief, we revise our understanding as we add in new insights. 

James Baldwin, “It is experience which shapes a language; and it is language which controls an experience.”

Grief is fluid, as is language. Let them learn to dance together.

Words of sympathy are not acts of compassion. We can say we wish we could help someone who is grieving, but until we do something, our words are empty. So do something.

Grieving is like paddling a kayak on an unsettled ocean. We collect the words that rise from our depths to the surface and share them with the people on shore. Some of them understand.

Men like to play cowboy and deny that grief for their spouse or child affects them. Their verse is terse.

When we grieve, we grab snippets of words from the air and weave their syllables into meaning. 

Grief is like the Big Bang. The impact of a death keeps expanding outward until it permeates every corner of our personal universe.

Do not be halfhearted in grief. Speak your heart boldly.