Unspeakable Love

Currently I am reading Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. This lovely and almost poetic novel covers loss, grief, and the inexplicable bond between mother and child. One of the main narrators is a behavioral scientist who studies elephants, especially their grieving process. You see, elephants have rituals they must go through, with the help of their herd, in order to navigate the stages of loss. One of the more interesting things I have learned is that elephants are a matriarchal society. The females take the lead as they assist each other in child-rearing. All help one another, even in death. 

We humans are often at a loss when it comes to grief. We know the pain. We acknowledge the emptiness. But we seem to appreciate and respect the stoic. We say things like, "Wasn't she brave?" or "Look how strong he seems." Public tears are acceptable at first, but we want to believe that people move on quickly after a loss. Why is that? We all know it often take months and even years to climb out of the depths of despair, but we don't want to see it. We don't want to think about what we would do if we lost a parent, a spouse, a child. How would our lives be different? What about the emptiness? How would we live with the silence?

A friend of mine just lost her husband after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Even though she knows in her heart of hearts he is now pain free and at peace, it will be a rocky journey. 

We choose these mates in life to keep us company. We want laughs and love and our hands held in the movie theater. What a void it must be when they are no longer here. My friend told me that she wanted an instruction book on grief, and I responded that even if she read book upon book, this journey would be hers and hers alone. 

Eventually we all will experience some type of great loss. It is the human condition. All we can do is be there for one another.  So we bring food, hold hands, sit in silence, and just hope we can bring some peace.

Washington Irving once wrote, "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."