Thursday, October 23, 2014

A lexicon of grief

I love words. I love their possibility and precision. I expecially love archaic words that once had significant context and meaning but now only reflect an outmoded way of thinking.

A great example of this is collective nouns.
A murder of crows.
A hastiness of cooks.
A blush of boys.

You would think such thorough lexicographers would have found a collective noun for just about everything.
A charm of finches.
A knot of toads.
A pity of prisoners.

They didn't.

There is no collective noun for a group of widows or widowers. There is no word that captures the utter isolation you experience when you lose a spouse. There are no specific words for the darkess of the night, the silence, the emptiness where once there was warmth. There are no graceful, antiquated words for the particular keening sound I make. There are no words

I don't have the words. My most trusted ally is absent.

So I offer you a few collective nouns, specific to those who are grieving. Perhaps the lexicographers can add them to their lists.
A keen of sorrow.
An echo of silence.
A singularity of widows.

Grief underscores the old axiom "needs must" and so in my need I must create new words. New patterns. A new udnerstanding of what it is to be a singular entity, even in a crowd. I have become a singularity of widows. 

(c) 2014 Laura Packer

(30 weeks. No words.)
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  1. Like you. I enjoy collective nouns but not what I found for widows: 'an ambush or clutch of widows', and although 'a grief of widows' is apt it does not convey the sense of solitude your 'singularity of widows' does.

  2. You mastery of words is profound. Through your words I have come to a greater understanding of what my mom experienced almost 30 years ago when my dad passed. Thank you.

  3. So true, and I think a "singularity of widows" is quite fitting. Though I haven't lost a spouse. But I did lose a daughter. There doesn't seem to even be a word for a parent whose lost a child, much less a word for a collective noun. Perhaps, like you, I can come up with possibilities. Somehow it feels important to at least try to find these labels, because sometimes I feel like the fact that there are no singular or collective nouns for parents of who have lost a child means that we are invisible, others don't want to know about our grief. Thank you for sharing this.


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