Grief is a Beautiful Thing

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It was Erbie’s birthday yesterday. I found myself reflecting on the nature of grief, and so here are a few of my thoughts:

Grief is hard at the beginning. It feels like something has crawled inside your body and dismantled everything. Nerve endings are burnt so that you can’t feel anything aside from this deep sadness for your loss. It is all consuming, rapturing any joy we could feel. It causes us to feel guilt whenever we do feel joy because how dare we be happy when someone so dear to us has bee taken away.

Grief is complicated. We feel like this feeling will last forever. And in a way it does, but grief changes over time. At a certain point – I don’t know when – grief stops being a component of sadness and becomes a component of memory. I do not know any of the science, but to me, it feels as though grief solidifies memory, crystalising them forever. Perhaps this is because we tend to remember things better when we have an emotional connection to them. But it also more than this, because this feature of grief appears to work retroactively. Memories that would be otherwise mundane and forgettable are saved. When someone dies, even our most normal and uninteresting interactions with them become vivid in our minds. Why is this? Is grief some sort of conductor of memory?

It’s been 11 years. On the big days I’m no longer sad. In fact, I find myself to be in better form than usual, because these big days are earmarked for remembering. I actively think about Erbie on his birthday and anniversary. I make time for it. And grief, in it’s mysterious way, has made all of these memories accessible.

As time goes on, grief becomes less about how I feel and more about the memory of the person we lost. Grief keeps the memory alive. If Erbie hadn’t died, and instead we simply grew apart as friends often do, would my memories of him be so intact? I doubt it. Grief gifts us these memories, a consolation prize for the inability to create new memories – it ensures that the cherished ones we have won’t be forgotten.

This aspect of grief is wonderful, beautiful, even. We naturally think of grief as a bad thing, but it gives us something important too, something we wouldn’t be able to endure this loss without.

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