“It’s all nonsense”

“This talk of making peace with it. Of feeling it and then finding a way through. Of closure. It’s all nonsense. ‘

Here is what no one told me about grief: you inhabit it like a skin. Everywhere you go, you wear grief under your clothes. Everything you see, you see through it, like a film.”

Margaret Renkl
Late Migrations book cover

These words come from Margaret Renkl in her incredible book “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss” (thanks for the recommendation, Paula Shaughnessy). You can read my full review of it on my book review blog.

I love the honesty and directness in this quote. Make peace with it? Forget it. I’m not happy about my son dying at the age of 6 (or any age while I’m still living — selfish as that is) and am not going to be okay with it. And then feeling it and finding a way through it. I do think you have to feel it, you have to allow yourself to feel the loss since trying to ignore it just creates future problems. This blog is one way for me to feel that loss. But can we find a way through it? No, grief is not something to go through, but something to learn to live with (which, just to be clear, is not making peace with it). Finally, there is no closure. What would that even look like? The only closure I expect is when I die.

The second part of the quote is equally on task. I especially like the idea of seeing everything through “a film.” I do see the world in a different way. I love children — their innocence, their joy, their energy, and their unending love. But I can’t help but see my son in them and miss him as a result. It does not mean I don’t want to see children because they remind me of Oliver. I remember Oliver all the time, and children bring back so much of what I loved about Oliver and all my children. Children make me happy in my remembrance, not sad. Still, it means how I saw the world before Oliver was diagnosed with cancer and how I see the world after he died, is different.

The Bible gives us plenty of examples of allowing and acknowledging grief. There are more Psalms of lament than any other type of Psalm. And we have a whole book of laments in which God is not heard but grief is felt.

Lamentations 1:12-13

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  
Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering    
that was inflicted on me,that the Lord brought on me    
in the day of his fierce anger?

From on high he sent fire,    
sent it down into my bones.He spread a net for my feet    
and turned me back.He made me desolate,    
faint all the day long.”

No peace, no working through it, no closure. This does not mean those of us who grieve do not live, but that we live with grief. And the Bible shows us to let that grief out, to cry out to God, to vent your anger and fear and frustration…and know that God sometimes listens in silence. But God does listen.

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