Privilege Blog

Sorrow As Substance, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:31am

Although I don’t want to write much about death (not having a large enough spirit to embrace the idea) I was thinking.

Sadness on the loss of a loved one, when they were ready and clear, is different than grief over someone who left in other circumstances. Not brilliant, but deeply felt.

I mourn the loss of my father. I loved him very much. He was with me all my life, and in the last few years became one of my closer companions. But he was 91, and clear and ready. That loss feels like sad water; a pool in a forest, reflecting light.

My best friend died at 60, of a brain tumor she refused to get diagnosed for months as symptoms increased. In a pandemic. That loss feels more like a hole in the ground guarded by snapping rodents. A terrible image, but that’s how it comes to me. Hard to find loss through the regret and anger.

One more thing. Both these events were out of my hands. I have lived with other losses as constant questions–what could I have done better?  There’s something to be said about learning to accept.

Have a good weekend.


I apologize in advance for not replying. Still trying to heal my arm/elbow/whatsit.

12 Responses

  1. No apologies needed. Again, I am sorry for your losses. So much to process these past two years. Be kind to yourself.

  2. Yes. With chronic illness, I’ve differentiated between clean pain – pain that is only pain, where yes, it is pain and it is tiring but that’s all – vs. dirty pain, pain that is accompanied by neurochemicals trying to convince you how horrible *everything* is, nausea, fear, etc.

    So, pain is always going to be pain, at the very least; grief is always going to be grief, at the very least; but it can be made more complex, compounded, felt in a way that is more demoralizing, for lack of a better term, by other factors at play either within us or outside of us. And that, too, we have to grieve, sometimes.

  3. Both feelings about death are OK.
    You hear people talk about death and about celebrating a life, but if the death is premature it’s harder to get over the feeling of unfairness at the event.

  4. O Lisa, how I admire your grace. I’ve remained traumatized by the loss of my father in a terrible auto accident, when I was 17; and yet I’m not ready to lose my mother, whose eventual passing I obsess over all the time. (In fact, I was thinking of this while sitting at my computer, just as your email appeared; that’s not a little eerie.) She’ll be 88 this summer and seems to be — touch wood — in fine fettle, despite an arthritic knee. Her cognition as sharp as ever, she still does the Times crossword daily, as she has all my life, and always in pen. Finishes it faster than she’d like, I suppose. We grew enormously close during the pandemic in a way we weren’t before. Is it selfish to want her to see 100? Will her passing be as tragic as my father dying suddenly at 47? I can’t compare, because they’re both horrible imaginings for me.

  5. Sending you love and understanding, I appreciate your eloquence and deep feeling that illuminates my own feelings. The difference in the losses you describe are what I think of as deaths in and out of time. My dad died at his time at 89. My brother-in-law died out of his time, suddenly at 50 of amyloidosis, after a four-month illness that took him from coaching his younger daughter’s soccer team to his funeral. In the former case my grief shifted quickly to gratitude for what we had shared and how it remained within me. In the latter case, the grief remains for someone I thought would be there for 20 or 30 or 40 more years to nurture his daughters, share time with his wife, host parties for our extended family, and be my friend and confidant. Your friend’s early death is complicated by the pandemic and her refusal to react to her symptoms. Acceptance is the best path. Despite knowing this, as Edna St. Vincent Millay said in her poem Dirge Without Music, “I am not resigned.” I am sorry for your loss of your friend.

  6. Today is a gift, tomorrow is not promised. We must enjoy the moment while it lasts. I hope your heart and body heal soon, Lisa. Send you hugs from across the miles. x

  7. It’s a very interesting question. My father died at 68 after two terrible years with an illness that he never accepted and which diminished him to the point of disappearance. My mother outlived him by 26 years and gradually wore down until she was exhausted (no exaggeration) simply by everyday life. Both died in the same hospital and without any family members present as we were racing to get there in time. Which was better? Which was worse? The losses remain the same. And as we get older, the temptation to dwell on death and its dominance can be saddening. Inexplicable. On a brighter note, I do hope your poor old arm starts perking up soon. Enjoy the spring sunshine.

  8. My Mother died in 2003, my father 10 years earlier. I still have dreams where they are here and just a phone call or a short drive away. Once my phone rang during such a dream and I thought ” that’s probably mom now”. A second later the feeling of loss and regret remained.

  9. Loss is hard. I’ve just started to reach some balance/resolution by feeling grateful for all the wonderful years shared together and being more cognizant of the fact that nothing lasts forever.

  10. Loss is difficult, whether it is sudden and unexpected, or at the end of a long life. Musings and our own convoluted and complicated are what make us human, and help us to guide and comfort each other. Hugs.

  11. Lisa,

    I am so sorry for your losses. I thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts as reading them help me to clarify my own as I work through the loss of my mother and then my 53 year old husband. Sad water and snapping rodents indeed. We find ways to accommodate these realities. I appreciate your writing, on every topic, so much.

  12. I’m sorry for your losses Lisa. So much in so short a time . To have our loved ones for so long is a blessing but we still want more of them. I lost my dad suddenly and my mom ten years later to a longer difficult illness. I thought I was ” ready” when my mom went after understanding grief when my dad passed but it hit me just as hard or harder and even though I knew she needed to go, it was the right thing for her, I wanted more. Shortly thereafter my husband left me and everything I ever knew was gone. Impermanence. ” everything changes and nothing lasts forever” . I later did marry again and found more joy than I hoped for. Sending you love and understanding.

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