Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Relative Grief

Gentle reader, I am not sure how these dark thoughts come to me, or why I subject you to them here, but I guess it must be an attempt to put my loss into perspective. It's a macabre sort of self-torture, almost like picking at a scab. It hurts and I know I shouldn't do it, but I am nonetheless compelled to obsessed on the subject for a while, at least, and writing about it here does indeed help. I've edited this a bit to make it less dark and brooding, though enough remains to make this an easy post to skip.

Lately I've been wrestling with the idea of relative grief. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with Pierre's death has been seeing the terrible toll that his loss imposes upon our family and friends.

Because I am his father, it seems natural enough that I should have to bear the heartache of losing my son. What I did not realize at first is that, however unfair it may be, it is also natural that many others would have to feel pain on my behalf. Selfishly, I ask, "After all, is not a father's anguish enough? Why must so many suffer?"

But that's a self-serving argument and my point here is not to be noble or self-sacrificing. I can't help wondering, even as I contemplate the many who suffer needlessly from Pierre's death, how this loss and my grief compare to others. Relatively speaking, things are just not that bad. I know that there are many, many parents who have not only lost a son, but whole sets of children. There are fathers who have buried their whole families on a single day. Then there are the circumstances of death. I know that there are many fathers who have had to endure far worse.

On the other hand, simply knowing that that the river of grief is as deep as it is wide is of no comfort. I do not know if I will be able look at the world in the same light again. This does not mean my world is unlit. Far from it. I have much to be thankful for and to look forward to with Valery and Maddie and the rest of our family. So many people came to embrace us with love and sympathy that I am just now realizing how much we are loved by so many, and I'm deeply grateful to and for our family and friends.

2 comments:

sonja said...

Phillip, this entry worries me... I hate to see you try to put a burden this huge all on yourself. This suffering we all experience is the price we pay for the wonderful gift we once had of knowing Pierre, and I for one can say that I do not regret anything even though this is immensely painful. I don't know if my words will reach to you but I could not read this and stay silent; please, please do not blame yourself or try to take on the burden for others. Just have faith in the fact that we are all individuals w/ the strength inside to face this in our own ways, it may seem unnecessary but death is actually a part of everyone's life at some point. Maybe the suffering is not always as severe for some as losing a son, but always painful. Trust that we will all be alright, even if nothing is the way it used to be; I can believe it. I hope I am not just babbling to you...

I read in the preceding entry that you were having the memorial for Lynda on May 13th; is it still going to be a combined memorial?

--Sonja

pd said...

Dear Sonja,

Thanks for your note. I want to begin by telling you how glad I am to learn that you are reading the journal and how especially pleased it makes me feel to know that my words have moved you to write back. So thanks for reading.

Thanks also for your concerns. Though they may be ill-founded, it nonetheless means a lot to me that you would be worried about my well being and I wanted to write immediately to allay your fears. Though my words are often very blunt, to say the least, there is an important distinction to be made between Phillip the writer and Phillip the person.

Oh, these two are really one and the same, in many ways. But, I must make it clear to my readers that I feel perfectly free to write things here (and in other places, notably poetry) that I would never be able to say in person.

I found this remarkably liberating state of being shortly after Lynda died last November, when I realized that I could finally free the writer in myself from myself. I am now unafraid to express the raw and often unformed emotion that makes for compelling reading for just that reason. The words should make you listen. That's when I started the journal. If anything, I hope my words will be engaging, not merely worrisome, for the issues I address, the doubts of a loving and thoughtful son and father, are, I hope, matters that will resonate with many others.

Please do not worry about me, tho. I am tough, but not insensitive. I am a realist, but at heart I am a romantic. Contradictions? Oh, yes indeed. Realize, if you will, that I while I don't hope to assume the burden all on myself, I cannot hold myself blameless; while I have learned a lot, I have lost a great deal; while I know that death is inevitable, I know that the order of our deaths was not; while I have no regrets, there is still much I wish I could do. Does that sound a little better? I hope so.

Hopefully, if what you and others read here is disturbing or at least makes you think, then I shall have accomplished something. I also hope that you will all realize that these are, in the end, just words. Read what you like, ignore the tripe, and let me know when I've touched a nerve.

Again, thanks Sonja. No, indeed, my dear, you are not babbling. I'm delighted to engage in the dialogue. I am touched by your concerns and glad to know that you've been reading the journal.

We are indeed planning a memorial for Lynda, but it will not be combined with a ceremony for Pierre. As you know, we've already had a wake for him, so I am not sure if we'll have any more ceremonies.