Death and grief. If we ignore them, maybe they’ll go away.
That’s the way our culture treats these very present, and very important aspects of everyday life. Ignore them, don’t talk about them, turn your face away and you’ll be spared.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Death spares no one, unfortunately. (Is this a surprise?) Similarly, grief comes to everyone’s door eventually. Some earlier, some later, but everyone will become acquainted with grief at some point in their lives.
So why don’t we talk about these two difficult, perhaps frightening, but absolutely certain aspects of life?
I remember my mother used to snicker when someone would say, in the course of conversation, “If I die….”
“As if there’s any ‘if’ about it!” she’d remark. “It’s not if; it’s when.”
The American culture places enormous value on youth and beauty – the antitheses of death and grief. Therefore, these two “ugly” aspects of our lives are relegated to the dark recesses of our collective closet. Don’t talk about them, don’t think about them, pretend they don’t exist and you might be spared!
This is a fallacy that is foolish to the extreme – to the point of being downright dangerous.
Living and believing the delusion that grief and death won’t touch us, leaves us open to the ultimate wound. When one or both of these inevitable events occur, we are not prepared. We feel cheated, wronged, hurt and angry.
“Why me?” we rage, when death and grief comes knocking. This outrage stems from the notion that these “bad” things happen to “other people.”
“It could never happen to me.”
How wrong we are. And how terribly unprepared we are to deal with the consequences. Is it any wonder that depression and suicide are frequent results of grief? Our culture has led us to believe it won’t happen to us. This is a lie: it will happen. It is just a matter of when.
We need to change the culture, bit by bit. We need to talk about these things – openly and often. While death truly remains one of the greatest mysteries, it should not be fearsome. It will come; it is unavoidable and inevitable. Let us get comfortable with it and talk about it, so that when it comes knocking we can shake its hand with some ease, rather than turning away in shock and fear.
Grief is a natural attendant to death and loss. Our culture tries to minimize it and teaches us to expect it to “go away” after a short amount of time. Again, this is a lie and does damage to those who expect it to be true. Grief is far more than a transient emotion, and those who grieve may feel the pain for months, years, even the rest of their lives. Expecting it to evaporate after a given period of time is as foolish as saying, “If I die….”
Take the blinders off. Put the fairytales away. Life is brief. If we love, we will grieve. And when we grieve, we must realize we are blessed, for that means we have truly loved.