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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
To be grieved
is to have been truly loved. To grieve is to have loved.
some comfort in that as we learn to live with it.