The Right to Mourn

Sometimes, permission to mourn is all we really need.

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Grief has no rationale. It doesn’t care how old they were, how ill they were, how close you were.

Grief grabs you at your chest and squeezes relentlessly, just a moment longer than you think you can hold with a sudden and momentary release so that you can inhale sharply before you’re squeezed again. (Best to have a paper bag nearby to help with breathing.)

Grief comes in waves and then subsides so that you feel Oh, OK all is good, I’m OK. But then the wave comes again when you’re on the street or in the store or just saying hello. But instead of hello, your face heats up, your heart beats up, and the tears are there before you have a chance to keep them at bay or look away and get it together in private.

This is where we mourn – in private. It feels too shameful or painful to do near others. We apologize for our grief – it’s overwhelming, intimate, personal – it’s too much. We don’t want to burden others with the rawness and nakedness of our emotions. It is disorderly conduct that disturbs the peace to feel the depth of grief and sadness when everyone is just trying to go about their day.

Grief is cumulative and has no expiration date. Of the person lost and other losses as well. It taps into the place that is hidden from sight. The one that holds moments past, time wasted, words unsaid, futures lost, regrets unacknowledged. Residues from unattended relationships reside here.

Grief is merciless in the way it exposes it all, leaving nothing to hide behind or solid to hold onto.

At this point in my life, mourning is more familiar to me than ever before: the people I have loved, the life I have lived, the dreams I have lost. Every person that I mourn is someone who has given to me. Every experience that I mourn, is something that has nurtured me. Every fantasy that I mourn, is a longing that has fueled me.

Every loss is a gift that once was, every void empty because it was once so full. The depth of mourning is intrinsically related to the heights of joy, forever intertwined regardless how much time has passed. That doesn’t make grieving less painful, but it does make it more permissible. And sometimes, permission to mourn, is all we really need.

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