Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Redefined, Refined, and ReFound

Anna Quindlen, a former journalist for the NY Times, lost her mother to cancer when she was a teen. A master of expression, she wrote of her experience with grief in a column entitled "Life after Death". This was published in May of 1994, two months prior to the big death that would forever change my own world.

She writes, "Grief remains of the few things that has the power to silence us."

Amongst other things, indeed, it silences us and others around us. The bereaved often anguish over a sense of abandonment by others. Not that silence is an inappropriate response; silence in the absence of presence results in loneliness. One can be silent and yet still say much.

She continues, "Maybe we do not speak of it because death will mark all of us, sooner or later."

Perhaps, in other words, the fear of death- death anxiety- causes others to withdraw, consciously or unconsciously, from the bereaved. Like an infantile game of hide-and-seek, if we cannot see Death, than Death cannot see us.

And my favorite passage, "Perhaps this is why this (grief) is the least explored passage: because it has no end. The world loves closure... loss is forever (and) two decades after the event there are those occasions when something in you cries out at their continued absence... we are defined by who we have lost."

For me and many other bereaved individuals, this redefining of the self is painful. For some, the pain gradually recedes- perhaps becomes more tolerable- and the newly established identity of the self becomes familiar, comfortable, and even, at times, a wonder. For me, Joanne Cacciatore redefined is sometimes that. And now, nearly 16 years into bereavement, I'd like to say that I've been redefined, refined, and refound by my Dead. Every tear I shed for her is worth it. It is an offering to our love, one that will never die.

Ouch, but beautiful.

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The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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