Friday, March 31, 2017

Grief has always been with us

This post was inspired by a question asked by Kim Go, founder of Alive and Mortal. She is a kind and wise person who helps the grieving.

As of this past Tuesday, it's been three years since Kevin died. I was expecting it to be a difficult day, but I found it wasn't much harder than any other day. There were some rough moments but mostly I engaged the everyday business of living. I grieve some every day, so Tuesday was no different.

Grief is persistent. It colors much of what I do and say, but it's no longer the predominant tone in my palette. Here, three years out, my life is no longer black and white, nor even sepia, but back in full-tones, even if the array of color may be different from what it was before he died.

Over the last few days I've had the privilege of talking with a number of people who have experienced deep grief; what I am struck by is how very universal it is. I've written about this over and over, if you love you will grieve, even if we all grieve in our own ways. This reminder has helped me so much, remembering that the grief is a pallid though powerful reflection of love.

I am in no way the first person to observe this nor the first to grieve deeply. In the months after Kevin's death I turned to mythology and folklore for solace (those of you who know me will not be surprised). Humans have been experiencing grief for a long, long time, nor are we the only animals to do so.

I looked in a lot of places. In the past (when I had cancer in my 20s) the Gilgamesh story helped, with his great love and grief for Enkidu. Later I found solace in Demeter's grief for her lost daughter Persephone. This time I needed a story of a wife grieving her husband. I found it in the story of Isis and Osiris.

In brief, Osiris is killed by his jealous brother Set who then cut the body into pieces and scattered them across Egypt. Osiris' wife Isis scours to earth to find each piece, restores him to wholeness and conceives their child Horus. In spite of his restoration Osiris is no longer part of the living world and becomes the lord of the land of the dead. No matter how great her grief, no matter how profound her effort, Isis can never be fully restored to life with her husband. She is willing to do anything to have him by her side again and it will never be entirely possible. Even gods are foiled by death.

I found such resonance in this story. I would have done anything to heal Kevin or to bring him back from the dead. If I could have removed the cancer from his body and placed it in mine, I would have. If I was told that committing a horrible crime would restore him, I would have done it. Anything.

I found comfort in this story not only because it reflected a depth of grief I was experiencing, it also reminded me that I was neither the first nor the last person who had lost someone they loved beyond measure. I found echoes of my own struggle in the story of Isis, a goddess who held the secrets to the universe, felt such grief and was unable to fully restore her beloved. It helped me feel less alone.

I have yet to perform this story. I've worked on it but even now, three years out, it's still raw. I will tell it eventually but for now it offers me comfort, as it has been comforting people for thousands of years. If we love, we will grieve, whether human or god. It is part of what makes us who we are.

 (c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Our ancestors are great guides... thank you for your thoughts and feelings as you touch ancient stories... <3


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