Talking about Grief

I can’t remember how much before my mother’s death, I thought about death and dying.

It’s true that my mom had had a boyfriend who was a professor of death and dying. My 13-year-old self was very impressed by this. Just as I was impressed that my mom spent a night in a cemetery with film and recording equipment.

I remember Mom and I speculating on the nature of the afterlife.

I don’t think of myself as a morbid person. At work, when coworkers ask me how I am, I tend to say, “Peachy!”

On my way to my car, I say hello to the jasmine growing next to our patio.

If the moon looks beautiful, I’ll point it out. (It always looks beautiful.)

I tend to be optimistic about people and fascinated about life. I also get very angry about the state of the world. (Are these contradictory things?) I cry easily.

It’s normal for anyone, isn’t it, to think more about mortality after the death of a friend or certain events in the news. I’m thinking a lot about my friend who died Wednesday at the age of 41 from cancer. In the days leading up to that, the news from the collapse in Surfside stayed on the edges of my thoughts. I feel for the families dealing with such sudden death.

Of course, tragedies happen every day. Grief is everywhere.

Friendship and beauty are also everywhere.

It’s hard not to lapse into cliché and trite expressions.

I recommend Griefcast by Cariad Llyod. I find it comforting to listen to funny people have conversations about grief. And last night I watched a documentary about Diana Vreeland (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel). I can’t say as I have any particular interest in Vreeland, but I like documentaries about creative people and the lives they lead. What really struck me about this documentary is that when it got to the end, it said next to nothing about Vreeland’s death. You expect that, don’t you, when watching a documentary about someone famous and dead. There are the inevitable people talking about the final days. Perhaps you expect pictures of the funeral? Eulogies? Headlines dropped over the screen?

This documentary shows a funeral, of sorts, but it’s a fashion shoot or movie clip. It is not Vreeland’s funeral. And the documentary doesn’t talk about her final days, what killed her, how people reacted, or her legacy. (Spoiler alert) They share a quote from Vreeland about the most beautiful thing she ever saw and then they show an animated Vreeland on a plane, perhaps the Spirit of St Louis flown by Charles Lindbergh. After that, they don’t even show the years of life as you would expect (1903-1989 if you want to know). It’s an interesting choice to simply not address her death directly.

After watching the documentary, I’d speculate that she would approve.

We can’t dwell on death, but denial isn’t the only alternative. Conversations must be had.

I often don’t like the how-close-were-you-to-the-dead-person question. It’s as if there is a certain measurement for how acceptable your grief is. Certainly if you are grieving for someone that someone else is also grieving, it’s important to consider relationships. I am sad about my friend’s death. But I can step aside when it comes to the grieving of her mother, her husband, and her children. Our grief is not the same. Their grief is another country, it’s another plane of existence.

Thank you for reading.

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