Wednesday, March 16, 2011

running deep - beautiful still waters from the expansive iphoto archives

After a loss, you have to learn to believe the dead one is dead.
It doesn't come naturally.

Meghan O'Rourke - The Long Goodbye

I'm nearing the end of Joan Didion's memoir The Year of Magical Thinking Chapter 17 begins

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.

We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing". A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to "get through it", rise to the occasion, exhibit the "strength" that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue.

We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be the anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless.

Understanding magical thinking


  1. xoxox
    yes. such a hard topic.
    my dad died in my arms, my good friend died while I was holding her hand, my dear Ridgeback died in front of me. those events were the most traumatic in my life. grief is long and lasting, it builds slowly and then ebbs and flows again, over and over. eventually the edges soften and only occassionally does the curtain blow open and reveal the sharp ache. xox

  2. I love the geometric lines in the second picture. Almost looks like flooded ruins.

    I suffered grief very early on in my life and I have to say it etched some very hard lines in my being.

  3. My dad died close to 10 years ago and there's not a day that goes by that I don't cry for him.
    Muscular Dystrophy destroyed him and his life because of it was so hard. I'm glad at least that he no longer suffers.


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