The incomparable, incredible heaviness of grief and how it's just not fair

Those who make us laugh have a gift. I don't mean just the talent for conquering their nerves and walking out on stage at some comedy festival to crack jokes and draw a polite - or genuine - ha ha from the audience. I mean the person who, when one is feeling blue, is able, without being irritating, to lift one's spirits by turning that temporary depression into chuckles, giggles, or even belly-aching guffaws. This, in spite of aforementioned 'down-at-mouth' being determined to remain glum.

As I said, it's a rare gift and I love those kind of people, even if I am an easy laugh.

It's not just adult humans who have the ability to do that. Puppies, I'm sure, have an adolescent stage of development and, if they know you appreciate their clownishness, will play up to your appreciative laughter and turn into foolish demons until, overtired like small children, they crash into sleep where they drop.

A mystery. Days, or weeks later, we think about something hilarious someone has told us, or shown to us, and we smile at the memory. But rarely - if ever - do we fall about in hysterics the way we did at the time. "You had to be there," is the phrase used to explain away the blank look on others' faces when they don't understand why we find something so funny in the memory.

The most we usually can manage when we're thinking about something funny which happened, is a chortle, or just a slight upturn at the corners of the mouth.

So why does grief repay us with interest?

No matter who or what it is that's been torn away from us, ripped our heart out and left us gasping with the physical pain of grief so we want to smash the sky and wail at the stars to cease their callous twinkling, the re-hurt doesn't fade the same way as it does with laughter. Why can't it be the other way round?

It's not bloody fair.

She was only a dog, for heaven's sake, only seven months old, but a special dog who made me laugh, comforted me when Mum died, walked beside me, ripped my clothes, ate the shoes, chased the chooks, stole the eggs, vandalised the furniture, loved me to bits, then jumped under a truck.

How do parents recover when they lose a child, I wailed to my husband, who did 15 years ago. We don't, he said, we just cope until someone says something, or hear a piece of music, then we cry.

She was only a dog, I said apologetically to my oldest friend whose husband died of melanoma seven years ago; she still misses him desperately. Don't ever compare grief, she said wisely, this winter was gruelling for me too.

Grief, moreso than love, makes us drippy and vulnerable. I read Bill Ralston's column saying goodbye to his brother Jack and cry. I read Haydn Jones' column on growing up without a father and cry. I can't watch the Earthquake inquiry about the CTV building and people ducking for cover: "PEOPLE DIED!" I want to shout at these solemn faces. "JUST OWN UP!"

Was Queen  Elizabeth II correct when she said, "Grief is the price we pay for love"? Probably, and yes, mourning does have a purpose. But you'd think, in the grand scheme of things, that emotions could be balanced. It would be nice, for instance, that if we have to suffer so badly every time we lose someone we love, then we could also enjoy the same recollection of the sensations when someone made us really laugh - the bubbling, spilling over, laugh-out-loud, lead up to, "Stop it you're killing me, please go on!".

Tragically life isn't like that. We love too hard, I guess, and that's why we never "get over it". We'll never have (that ghastly word) "closure". We never, really, "move on".

Would we want to be the sort of person who would?

Comments (2)

by stuart munro on September 18, 2012
stuart munro

Grief is the uniting human emotion. We all feel it, and no one envies it.

by Scott Chris on September 24, 2012
Scott Chris

She was only a dog, I said apologetically to my oldest friend whose husband died of melanoma seven years ago; she still misses him desperately.

Only a dog you loved like a child maybe. I'm sorry for your loss. 

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