On Grief

I’ve been thinking a lot about grief. I’ve never felt the deep, searing grief that is only associated with death. Why? No one super close to me has ever died. I’ve been to one funeral in my life. I know that – as much as I may be a cynical and jaded bastard especially when compared to my idealistic friends from school – I still have the badge of innocence that only someone as young as I could sport.

A few weeks ago a classmate stood up at an all-school assembly and told a touching story about a good friend of hers who was tragically killed. Just a few days ago I heard about a young guy – 18 or 19 years old – who was hit by a car on his birthday walking home at night.

I knew no one in the Gulf Coast, no one in the World Trade Center, no solider in Iraq.

I DO know that some day, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a week, maybe in a year, chance will have it that I am faced with a great tragedy. And I sometimes wonder,  in bed in the darkness of my room, how I will react in such a circumstance. Will I cry? Will I buy a book on "how to deal with grief"? Will I try to forget it? Will I try to "celebrate" the person’s life?

Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics and Chicago professor, did a post this evening on his blog commemorating his son’s death six years ago. He was one year old. It spoke to me and inspired this post. Probably because of the reference to the Rent song "Seasons of Love."

One Response to On Grief

  1. John says:

    Ben – it’s a simple fact that the older you get, the more grief you will face. A young 43, I’ve lost both parents to cancer, colleagues on 9/11, and had to euthanize two dogs who had lived wonderful lives making me very happy – and yet I count myself immensely fortunate. My wife, two daughters (6 and 3), siblings and close friends are all mostly happy and healthy (one friend with breast cancer in remission).

    Some day you will undoubtably become a parent and then you will know the secret terror that most of us live with 24/7. You may cry when you hear of the grief of another parent as I do – openly or silently – more than I probably realize. There can be no greater loss to the soul than the loss of one’s child.

    Yet, all in all, this is what life is. It is something to celebrate in the present because the future is very uncertain. Tomorrow is not to be avoided or feared. After all, tomorrow is often wondrous and amazing. Especially to someone like yourself – still at the very beginning of your journey.

    You should not lay awake pondering how you will react to the inevitable grief – it is not really possible to know until you face it. But, as you are clearly thoughtful and empathetic, perhaps you could find a way to lighten your classmate’s grief through just being there. And just maybe, when it eventually is your turn to grieve, others will do the same for you.

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