The Mechanisms of Grief

(this is why I don’t sip wine while listening to the playlist on my phone)

Can you continue to think of and remember someone who died years ago? Does their own age make a difference? Say, the person who died was only 10 years old, will that change how their memory can affect your daily life, compared to someone of a ripe old age?

Personally, I’ve never “lost” someone (to death) who was a “founding” person in my life, but I have been intrigued by death (and more specifically grief).

I’m listening to “From Where You Are” by Lifehouse and, like most people, I discovered this song back in the early 2000s. I got sick of it very quickly because I thought it was a love song. It seemed overly sappy to me. Pining after someone who has moved to a different city but who you will (surely) see again wasn’t something I could relate to at 17. Only later, at 22, did I discover this was a song about death. In fact, “From Where You Are” was written for a campaign about car accidents. When I discovered this, I was dating someone who had lost a childhood friend (and lover) in an accident, and he clearly hadn’t moved on. I would listen to the song and try to imagine what “all those little things, [that he] never thought would mean everything to [him]” could be. A laugh? A facial expression? A way of being?

He would listen to my heartbeat and sometimes looked at me strangely (“I hear the beating of your heart; I see the shadows of your face”). Do we ever listen to each other’s heartbeat? What do we actually notice about the people we see every day?

What is it like to be Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights? So sure he has understood Catherine but all alone in this certitude. Can you feel close enough to someone who lives only in your memory?

A friend of mine (who is about 25 years older than me) lost someone, around Christmas time, in 2013. His friend participated in a touristy walk along a coastline, with his wife and 9-year-old daughter. Unexpectedly, a wave crashed over the rocks and knocked the little girl into the water. In an attempt to save the child, the father tried to grab her and bring her back to shore… unsuccessfully. They were both swept away with the waves and the mother/wife became a window. Even though I didn’t know the people personally, I think about this often. Do you ever recover from being a mother when there is no child?

I wonder how it hurts. Does the pain subside, and create more guilt? That’s what Marcel Proust describes. A lasting feeling of guilt for not feeling enough sadness.

Unlike people who are present in our lives, the dead leave us with the same feeling over the years. My feelings for the aforementioned family will never change. My feelings for my philosophy teacher, who died of cancer 2 weeks after his son died of an overdose, won’t change. My feelings for Camille (the elusive ex who died in a car accident), won’t change.

Melanie’s mother hanged herself from a church.

Paul Fitzgerald died of cancer despite being vegan and very athletic.

Mrs. Abraham died of cancer and her middle child suicided.

What about all the people we didn’t even know but that we heard enough about to be touched by their passing? News stories, family history, novels, etc. Even those who don’t die, but just go, leave a mark. They leave a scar. Sometimes all we can hope for is an “Eternal Sunshine”.

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