better in your heart than in your head
April 28, 2012, 9:45 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: ,

Have you been to a funeral at which the life of the deceased is ‘celebrated?’  Doesn’t celebrating a life at a funeral crowd out grieving at one?  I wonder if we’re meant to really grieve – when someone we love dies – without our grief being confused by other emotions.

I remember when my friend P’s father died.  He called to tell me when it happened and described grieving in terms of a dam slowly opening.  He said that grief came to him in a controlled flood of pain and loss that subsided as if invisible gates had closed just when he had reached a certain threshold.  And later the gates opened again and tested him to a high degree and closed again before he was overwhelmed.

In the letter excerpted below, Wittgenstein recommends letting grief right into your heart.  If you approach your grief cerebrally – hold it at arm’s length – it may frighten you, he says.  However, if you let it in your heart, you will not be afraid.  It’s like letting a god possess you in ecstatic ritual; or keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer.

I was tempted to end this post by saying that grieving unblocks us and allows us to go on living positively in a sort of self help way.  No doubt there is more to W’s writing on grief, but in this bit he doesn’t even hint at grief being used to get to another state of being like happiness or contentment.

No stated result, and no promise of it leaving, in this short passage.  An unwanted guest — or maybe more likely a necessary friend.

Tomorrow marks the eight year anniversary of the death of another friend’s young daughter, of cancer.  Family and friends will gather to eat and talk and send off balloons with messages on them.  The grief of their loss is still in their hearts, a companion for years since her death and more to come.

So, celebrate my life when I’m living; but grieve my death on the day I die. Dance tomorrow, today we mourn.

Don’t let grief vex you. You should let it into your heart. Nor should you be afraid of madness. It comes to you perhaps as a friend and not as an enemy, and the only thing that is bad is your resistance. Let grief into your heart. Don’t lock the door on it. Standing outside the door, in the mind, it is frightening, but in the heart it is not.

Wittgenstein, diary entry

From Lars Iyer’s site Spurious


4 Comments so far
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Last week I was speaking to a woman who didn’t attend her husband’s burial, or allow people to cry around her at his wake. I know we all do grief differently, but that just seemed deeply odd to me. Grief is irresistable. It’s always there. It ebbs and flows, and presents in many ways. My mother died in July, and has only now decided to show up in my dreams, laughing. Before this, the dreams were of loss and her absence. Grief is odd, too 🙂

Comment by speccy

Your experience reminds me of Peter’s – different presentations like successive stages. My condolences.

Comment by Peter Rudd

Hey Peter, thanks for the post, and the reference to yesterday’s gathering in memory of our daughter, Madeleine. It has been 8 years since she died, and this is the 8th time we have deliberately gathered to open our hearts to each other to share both the pain and grief of loss and the joy of bearing Madeleine-memory/experience in our beings. We talked together of why we continue to do this after ‘such a long time.’ A smattering of responses in the room (of 58 people, family, school and dance friends, and neighbours) included celebrating her spirit, keeping connected to each other around a remarkable life, speaking her name out loud and telling stories of love and meaning, allowing her presence in our lives to influence each of us and continue to draw us together. There was a marvellous mash-up of laughter, intimacy, tears, re-connection, and a stunningly beautiful release of 200+ colourful balloons, many with messages of love for Madeleine, that sailed off to the SSW on a brisk breeze on a perfect sunlight spring evening. I appreciate you, your postings in general, and this one which has given some shape to yesterday’s experience. thanks.

Comment by bob

I hope I get a balloon! A beautiful day – thanks for relaying it Bob.

Comment by Peter Rudd

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