As I sit on my front porch writing this piece, with the dewy smell of rain overwhelming my senses and small droplets beginning to fall upon the asphalt, I allow my own grief to gradually enter my mind. I'm grieving for those I've personally lost; for the black men and women our country has lost to racism and violence; for the many souls lost to an unexpected and frightening virus. And I'm grieving for our nation –– for our world –– as we witness the rightful anger and frustration of those who have simply had enough of the systemized racism so prevalent in today's society. I'm grieving a nation filled with oppression and ignorance, and I'm hoping for a future world of love and acceptance.
We must remember that it is okay to feel our own grief.
"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls"
– Kahlil Gibran
There's a Freudian concept that rings in my ears through these troubling times. In the third chapter of his book "The Ego and the Id," Freud discusses the Ego Ideal, or Super-Ego, and in doing so, he begins with the topic of melancholia and mourning.
He claims that melancholia occurs when"an object-cathexis has been replaced by an identification" (Freud p.28). In other words, when we experience a great loss, we accumulate some portions of that person into our own psyche. Maybe after losing your grandmother, you find yourself cooking her favorite dish without realizing it; maybe you begin repeating phrases your late friend always used to say; maybe you're painting daisies, your deceased sister's favorite flower. These "substitutions" (as Freud calls them), build up our individual characters. The introjection of these characteristics into our own subconscious form our complex personality.
In effect, we are the sum of our losses; we are the eternal continuance of everyone we have ever loved and lost.
And, man, isn't that beautiful.
Whenever you feel yourself stuck in the painful process of grief, remember: your loved one will always be within you, no matter what.
"Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."
At my Aunt's funeral, I read this sonnet, and I still find it comforting during times of grief:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
–– Shakespeare, Sonnet XXX
Recently, my family lost two beloved friends within the span of a week. While it's been over a month since they passed, I still find myself thinking about them frequently.
I remember the many life lessons my two "uncles" taught me, the many laughs we shared, and the warmth of their smiles from a distance. While saddened to never again see Rocky's big, goofy grin as he took a puff of his "peace pipe," or Jeep's welcoming smile and wave as he drove by in his beloved old Jeep, I will forever hold their memories deep within my heart. These two men truly brought something special to our little island community, and, damn, do we miss them.
So, in the proper Dunleavy's Irish fashion, I propose a toast. Young, old, whomever you may be, get a glass and raise it high to the sky, and repeat after me:
"Here's to the two men who left such joyous and wonderful imprints on the lives of so many. Here's to their memories and their losses; here's to the continuance of their legacies in the hearts and souls of those of us left. Their stories might have ended, but I promise you, they will live on through our minds and our mouths. To Rocky and Jeep."
If you have lost someone, I hope you find peace. I would hug you if I could.
Forever sending you love and warm wishes,