I'm almost done talking about grief. Soon, I'll release “Requiem for a Stranger” and then I can move on to other subjects. Meanwhile, grief is a very powerful feeling and it's so important to feel it.
Feels For Reals
As someone who once stuffed my grief for many years, I know how important it is to feel my feelings in the moment (or as soon as possible). I lost a partner rather abruptly at one point in my early years. But I didn't know how to be in touch with my emotions then. So that grief stayed under the surface for quite a while.
Then, one day I was with a group of people I really trusted. Thankfully, my trust was well-founded and they supported me as I began to unpack my long-standing grief. I had to spend months letting those emotions out. Since then, I do the best I can to notice and accept my feelings as soon as I can recognize them. Plus, I've gotten much better at that recognition over the years.
What Might We Grieve?
There are so many things I (or you) could have grieved in the past year: illness and too often the death of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers from COVID-19; horrible and sudden deaths from mass shootings; the loss of pets; negative (and hopefully temporary) changes to our culture; and so many more. What have you lost and grieved in the past year?
Grief is sometimes a “selfish” emotion. I feel grief because I've lost something. That “something” can range anywhere from a loved one who separates from me (by death, divorce, etc.) to a part of my personality that no longer serves me.
The other way I can feel grief is on behalf of someone else. If you tell me that you lost a dear friend who I did not know, I can still grieve with you. With each story of loss I've heard or read during the pandemic, I felt more of the heaviness of this grief.
This latter form of grieving has been on my mind and heart during the pandemic. There have been so many people who have experienced loss during this year. And there's no way to quantify grief: it is what it is for each person. My friends whose dog died and my own giving up of a beloved canine were huge losses. Though these were clearly different, we cannot compare griefs.
One way that this is obvious is that so many have died from the deadly virus. And each of these deaths is surrounded by dozens or hundreds of people who grieve about that loss. Though I cannot measure this emotional depth, I can tell you that it is gigantic. I can say this both because I have spoken with people who have experienced this loss and also from a sense of our whole humanity. There has been a deep cost to the human race in this pandemic (and it's not over).
Expression and Catharsis
As I said at the beginning of this post, I have had to learn to accept and express my grief. Holding on to it caused a significant internal cost in my youth. Nowadays, I choose to find ways to let the grief out.
This is why I am composing a requiem. It is a powerful and cathartic expression of my grief from this past year. I know what some of my losses are from this past year and many of the on-behalf-of griefs as well. But I know that I will be discovering the sources of my grief and sense of change for some time to come. The requiem is one step along this path.
May you find whatever will help you take the next step, too.