Feb 1, 2018

the elasticity of grief

Twenty or so years ago, I was casual acquaintances with a woman who, in the space of a year, lost one of her three children to an accident and her husband to a sudden heart attack. My friend recounted this to me on some Sunday afternoon without too much fanfare, perhaps because she was some distance from those events. Still: I was in my twenties then, and I’d never encountered a personal loss like this. So I must have pressed her on the matter. How does one survive?

What she told me has stayed with me ever since: that her resulting grief then was, yes, a bigger grief than she ever thought possible. It was devastating; it hollowed out a giant space inside her. But, she said, the unexpected result was that every emotion was also more dynamic: that her happiness was also able to swell to a never-before range of expansion. That her laughs were the big-belly kind. She never once suggested that it was worth those events to experience those highs and lows. Of course not. But the elasticity of grief is something I think about all the time.