Life and thoughts

Unravelling modern grief

We are very used to being able to express our every thought and emotion through a myriad of ways today. Changing morals. Social media. Globalisation. Yet, when it comes to those thoughts and emotions which cause us pain, where we most need support and care, nothing. We keep them private. We are almost forced to – it is the new taboo.

While many have fought the good fight for open discussion of mental health and illnesses, there is an area that remains in the dark. Grief.

Is it our youth-obsessed culture that makes us fear and hide from mortality? Perhaps.

Is it our desperate pursuit of instant gratification and happiness making us turn our heads? Maybe this too.

It is perhaps a little bit ironic that the closeted Victorian age dealt with loss more clearly than we do today. There were rituals to be followed. Expected periods of mourning (which could go for years without question – Queen Victoria mourned Prince Albert the rest of her days). Social mores for visiting and caring for those who had lost someone. A uniform of black clothes and armbands to identify to others the need for respect and empathy.

Maybe the Victorians managed death in this way because it was more present than today – no vaccinations or modern medicines to save you from diseases, poorer health and diet meaning lower life expectancy. Death was a constant visitor but to those closest to you. Whereas today, our improved circumstances protects us and allows us to distance ourselves from our poorer cousins in war ravaged or poverty stricken countries.

Our lives are so much better in so many ways but in this one, we should consider taking a leaf from the Victorians.

Grief is one of the many things that makes us human. A link. A sensation common to everyone, yet unique in how it is felt to each individual. It can be felt on the loss of another human (whether that human has lived or never had a chance). The loss of an animal. The loss of a place. Even the loss of an idea or hope.

Grief is also unavoidable. Not one of us will live a full life without experiencing loss and the overwhelming emotions that accompany a loss.

In a world that overshares on all the meaningless, we need to relearn the language of grief. The need for compassion lasting over days, months, years, decades. There is no deadline on the sensation of grief. The courage to let those grieving speak about their loss, when and if they choose. That you can sympathise with another’s grief – but remember that you will never experience their particular grief, nor they yours. We need to stop expecting individuals to “get over” their grief, but rather learn how to live with it. To recognise that grief can change in how it is felt over time but it never truly leaves us.

As painful as it is, grief is the result of something incredible. That there was someone, or something, that you loved so much that their loss will always be felt. It’s worth noting.

To be grieved is to have been truly loved. To grieve is to have loved.

There is some comfort in that as we learn to live with it.