I knew Hannah, the young woman who was killed in Jerusalem yesterday (Good Friday). She was blessed with three great qualities of intellect, namely vitality, suppleness and rigour. She was therefore good fun. Think of her parents.
Before that news broke I’d been finding this Holy Week particularly difficult. Maybe last year I was in some kind of bubble separating me from grief over Hugh. This year, however, the constant reminders of someone dying so that others may live have been extraordinarily hard to bear. I am brought back again and again to 2 Samuel 18.33. I begin to type “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” and before I get to the first Absalom tears gently drip down my cheek. Added to this, a friend’s daughter died last year and she, the mother, is in bits, not helped now by Hannah’s murder, for she knew her better than I did.
I wasn’t going to write about this stuff any more. I was informed in no uncertain terms about nine months ago by a woman who attends a neighbouring church that it was time I stopped wallowing. After all, she said, she’d buried two husbands. I’m not surprised. I was told by a former student a few months ago that every family had to deal with stuff like this, the implication clearly being that it was time to move on. So, like I say I kind of decided to keep schtum. So why haven’t I? Therapy for me I suppose, given recent events. And nobody is forced to read this.
I’ve no energy for other people. Violence swims about in my mind, seeking whom it may devour. When I hear moaning minnies complaining about their aches and pains I have the devil of a job in not propelling their dentures down their throats. I’m quite likely to tell them some home truths. This may be a very good thing but isn’t what they’re expecting, and it’s professionally risky for the last thing clergy are expected to do is tell the truth. The good news is that I treasure more than ever my family, and the colours that I see increasingly dimly with my one functioning albeit somewhat glaucomatous eye.
I’d hoped that the muse might have returned by now. Two of my regular readers (half of them, so) have been kind enough to hope so too. Occasionally I think of a topic that might serve, the more ridiculous the better, but then I think “what’s the point?” People seem terribly worried by the possibility of North Korea kicking off. I just don’t care. Bring it on, you mad bastard.
I recommend Inside Grief edited by Stephen Oliver (ISBN: 9780281068432), so far the only book that I’ve found authentic. It doesn’t assume that the dead offspring is an infant.
I must confess to having been shocked and wounded by the remarks I relate above. I’d been chugging along as best I could, then wham, those comments have preyed on me, vampires sucking the blood clean out of me. My only response to them is two words, which I regret not having used in context. The second is “you”. The first—and some of you may recall an episode of Blackadder with Miriam Margolyes—sounds exactly like …
Fr Stanley, I’ve found my way here from Thinking Anglicans. Reading back through your posts from the last couple of years I cannot begin to imagine what you (and countless others who lose a child at any age) are going through. I have no words of my own. This says it:
thanks very much. You are kind. It is difficult, but common enough. Unfortunately that does not make it any easier for those affected. I was in a bubble for the first 16 months or so, now am inundated. Therapy is helping.
Grief is not a disease; it is not an illness; it is not depression. It is in fact, an expression of love. Grief can only be a disease if love is. There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing a child. God Bless.
I’m one of those who think that if a priest cannot tell truth, then who can. It’s certainly one of the qualities that I have come to value the most in you. And in terms of dealing with your grief, it’s yours, not theirs – enough said. And please keep writing. It always keeps me thinking and feeling and wondering, and that is what I think Jesus wants us to do.
Dear Stanley, Duck them indeed. Your journey. Your rules. Love, Nick
Each person deals with their grief in different ways and length of time. Personally grief helps to remind me of my own mortality and selfishness. Let the person who is grieving deal with it in their own way but be there for them if needed. Carry on Rambling Stanle, it may help you, but certainly helps us.
Good to see you are back writing Stanley. Nobody can put a timeline on working through grief. There is no way that all that happened to me is more important than yours. Writing is a good way of emptying the unconscious as well as meditation.
There is no manual for this sort of thing.
Easter Blessings Stanley
et cum spirito tuo. and thank you.
Oh Stanley, thank you for your honesty. I know what it can be like listening to people moan when you want to wail….. and I haven’t been in your situation. If I have picked up anything about grief in all my listening, your experience is far from unusual, a year is only a flick of an eye. By the time I finished last night’s service, I was heart broken and I amn’t in the middle of grief, thankfully, but so many in the parish are, one or two almost ran out of the church afterwards.
One more step along the road…….tomorrow I will be remembering how difficult it was for the first disciples to actually believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and they were there at the time. May you know some peace and comfort in the midst of the celebrations, Ruth.
thanks Ruth. You are a darling.