We have stated this before in “Painting The Landscape Of Grief”: “The concept of ‘grief’ has a wide range of interpretations. Those interpretations though, may vary from culture to culture or from language to langue. For this blog I will use the ‘Merriam-Webster Dictionary’ where grief is defined as a “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement” but, also as “an unfortunate outcome”. In other words the concept of ‘grief’ varies from the loss of simple addressable items such as the loss of a necklace up to the loss of the person who is most dear to you.”
It’s all pretty vague though: “the concept of grief apparently has a wide range of interpretations.” Grief also appears to be an emotion; the same is also true for anger, happiness, sadness and so on. In my opinion they are all variants on a theme.
Let’s exercise our imagination.
A large valley has two lakes that are separated by a dam. Water can’t flow from one lake to the other. There are no rivers that supply water or drain water from the lakes. Now, imagine the following situations as two extremes on a theme:
- The dam between the two lakes is so wide that when driving across the dam by car it takes at least a half hour to drive the other lake.
When the water in one of the Lakes suddenly disappears and it doesn’t matter how that happens, one of the Lakes is suddenly empty, nothing happens in the other lake. There is not a ripple to be seen on the surface of the full lake and, and there is no water flowing from the full lake to the empty one. The dam is so wide and strong that even the depth of the full lake doesn’t matter.
- The dam between the two lakes is so narrow that when standing on top of it and you lose your balance, you fall either in one or the other lake.
When the water in one of the Lakes suddenly disappears and it doesn’t matter how that happens, one of the Lakes is suddenly empty, then the dam collapses and the water crashes from the full lake into the empty lake. Over time the water flows more slowly and eventually comes to a rest. The water level in the full lake has gone down and is now spread over a much wider area. You may find some remains from the dam protruding the water.
Can you still see this in your imagination?
In the above situations each lake represents a human being, the water stands for the feeling or the emotion of that human being and the valley and the dam represent the relationships between the two.
The first situation is reflecting two persons who have a relationship with each other (the valley) but with such a great distance between each other (the broad dam) that it doesn’t really matter when the other disappears by death, divorce or emigration (the empty lake). The one that remains, just goes on with his life as if nothing had happened (no ripple on the surface of the full lake).
The second situation is for two persons who have a relationship with each other (the valley) and a very close to each other (the narrow dam). In this situation it does matter when the other disappears by death, divorce or emigration (the empty lake). The one that remains, is undergoing intense emotions (the dam collapses and the water falls thundering into the empty Lake) and eventually these emotions come to rest more or less (the water is staring to flow slower and slower and eventually comes to a stop). There may be scars left (some remnants of the dam may stick out above the newly formed lake) and your perspective of life is or has been changed (the lake now covers the entire valley and the level of the water is dropped).
Can you still imagine this?
Emotion is, in my view, the difference in the feeling before and after the disappearance of the other (the difference in height of the Lake after the collapsing of the dam). For the record, it doesn’t always have to be the case that when the other disappears it yields a negative feeling (grief or sadness), it could also result in a positive feeling or joy in the sense of “Hooray, finally got rid of him”, the feeling could also result into anger; It’s just how you look at it.
Bereavement is in my opinion the way in which the difference in feeling changes (the water falls thundering into the empty lake and eventually comes to rest more or less). It is clear that the degree of the difference in feeling affects the process of mourning; when there is a big difference bereavement will be experienced as a much rougher process than when there is a minor difference. The degree, I don’t know if you could phrase it that way, in the feeling (the volume of the lake) determines how long it takes before the process of grieving becomes quieter, less turbulent.
Great, now what can I do with this knowledge?
During our lives we develop our feeling and our “lake” becomes fuller and fuller. The more intense a relationship is and the more depth this has, the fuller your “lake” will become and the more turbulent your process of bereavement will be when the other leaves you. Would you in advance like to be aware of a turbulent mourning process when the other leaves you? When you take this into account from day one of your relationship with the other then you lose in my opinion a lot of happiness and love. Simply because you will deliberately flatten your feeling in that relationship. Is that what you want in a relationship? If that is the case, can you the speak of true love?
In a nutshell, grief is an essential part of emotions that makes us a real or a genuine human. A mature human, a person who does not necessarily thinks about himself, but which focuses on the other one in his life; don’t we define this as love? Apparently grief and love are closely connected, the one cannot be without the other. It doesn’t matter how you phrase it but, grief also a measure for the love you have for the other that left you. Why are we talking about love in our lives and not about grief? Why are we running away from or dodge someone who mourns? Is it because we only love ourselves … or is it perhaps because we only just think of ourselves … or are we afraid of mourning … or are we afraid to be alone … or are we afraid of real love?
Personally, I’m no longer afraid of mourning, it’s part of our life after all. By accepting that I became a different person. Did I become a better person? I don’t really know, I have an opinion about this, but I leave that for you to decide.