Grief as Love

Emotions are complex, sometimes not at all easy to unravel.

We can have apparently contradictory emotions simultaneously: great respect for another in authority and a submerged, vile, competitive scorn.  One familiar emotion might embrace another in a surprising embrace.  We might think that grief and love are quite distinct: love is joyful, grief is sad.  But are these two always distinct? Could grief be an expression of love? Could grief embrace love?

We don’t grieve the loss of things we despise. We grieve only the loss of things we love. Think of grief as an expression of love, love of something or someone now lost.

Grief is not an unhappy love, in the sense of a love lost or unreciprocated.  It’s sadness at loss of someone or something still loved. What’s unhappy is the sense of loss.  What’s happy is the sense of love for someone or something that is worthy even in its absence.

We find it hard to see two apparently opposed feelings — love and grief — as inexorably entwined. To see a memorial service as a place for grief — even keening or wailing — seems to rule out seeing it as a place to celebrate a life.  Of course a memorial service ought to express both grief and celebration — sadness at a great loss and happiness at the love we have for he or she now passed.  Catholic services, at least in Ireland, used to begin with wild keening and then morph into wild drinking and dancing.


One comment on “Grief as Love

  1. dmf says:

    for all of its limits I find the impulse of phenomenology to be worth embracing, to try and attend to what is actually happening and not get caught up in abstractions like logic, I find this to be akin to the limits of learning from books rather than one’s own lived experiences as I think Emerson and Thoreau try and remind us in their more existentialist moments.
    “Don’t think, but look!”

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