I don’t find my culture to be very good at mourning. Too many subjunctives. Other cultures, to my way of thinking, are better with loss.
What do I mean by my culture? Let’s call us Anglo-Americans, as I feel I’ve talked enough about WASPs to last a lifetime. What do I mean by we aren’t terribly good at it? Well, what was the last time you went to an Anglo-American funeral or memorial service and everyone shared a full expression of grief, howsoever they were moved? Perhaps my experience with buttoning-up is unique? Boy oh boy, I’d be glad to hear that.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking lately that we all may still be suffering from pandemic grief. Even when we lost no one to COVID. Maybe the business we started never opened its doors. Maybe our children lost almost an entire life experience of high school with friends, or college and independence. Maybe our best friend died of cancer and we never got to say goodbye.
I don’t mean I want to dress in black or white for the next three years. Nor do I feel that loss now defines life. I don’t need to write about this every week, or month, or even year. Lots of fun things still happen. I just wish we all had more common rituals, and more common language, for what we as creatures will inevitably experience. And what we’ve all been through.
For example, do the college graduates who didn’t get to graduate have a term for themselves? They deserve one. Is there a word for parents who have lost a child, perhaps the hardest loss of all although I am not the judge? What do we call the peoples who have been taken from, or are losing, their lands?
Where we have shared language we can talk in understanding, and what we can understand together we share, and what we share should become more bearable. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve ignored plenty of distress in my day, I just haven’t found that behavior terribly useful.
Loss isn’t an absence, it transforms. We carry those experiences we didn’t have, and those we have loved, with us. They become part of us. A collective howl in the moment, and a love and sorrow-filled ceremony every year in the remembrance, perhaps as the seasons shift, would not be–the Anglo-American crime above all others–inappropriate. To all the cultures who remember, thank you. May we all sit Shiva. Gracias a México, the history of Dia de los Muertes enlightens.
I want, more than anything else, to live in the fullness of my existence. I want that for everyone. (Which of course determines my politics, I want everyone to have an existence they don’t need to escape, but that’s not what I’m talking about this morning.) So the idea that we must “put something behind us” is maybe untrue. Should we maybe instead take it in?
If we don’t remember loss can we sufficiently cherish what we have, or the privilege of being alive? Dunno. I’m a fan of full-blown celebration too. Bring on the trombones.
This is not the time for the usual salute; I won’t wish you a happy weekend, only a peaceful one. All your comments are welcome. Also loss and happiness do not rule each other out, it’s not a natural law, in the fullness of time.