Behind The Veil Of Grief

behind the veil of grief

In silence. C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, says that while he could not talk to others while grieving, he feared being left alone:

“I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”

Occasionally, we ask what happiness is and how we may find it. Grief may bring home to us the fact that we had it, for what was taken from us may have been precisely happiness. And nothing that you didn’t have can be taken from you.

Related: 5 Ways To Help Someone Who Is Dealing With Loss

To the extent that people are irreplaceable, the happiness we can experience with a particular other person is irreplaceable as well. But there are two things I wish to say about this point.

First, the world would be a much worse place if people were replaceable, even though such a world may be one without grief.

Second, happiness can be rebuilt. Not the same happiness, but a different one. The psyche wounded by a loss attempts to heal. While it may not seem so shortly after the loss, we can gradually learn to untangle ourselves from the now-unreal world that contains the missing person and rejoin the real world, a world without that person but with all the other people.

The mistake those who do not allow themselves to grieve make is not in the destination but in the speed. We must eventually rejoin society, but we cannot do so immediately. There may be days when grief seems unbearable to the mourner. Poetry and music may help on those days. Grief can sometimes be made more tolerable by making it beautiful.

As Dostoyevsky says, “Tragic phrases comfort the heart… Without them, sorrow would be too heavy for men to bear.”

Importantly, we ought to recognize that the grieving person may be temporarily lost to the rest of us, much as the deceased is lost to them. We mustn’t put pressure on mourners to come back and go on living the way they did before any more than those in denial about their own grief ought to put pressure on themselves to do the same.

The grieving may be temporarily lost to us, but we can still be with them, even when there isn’t much we can say or much they would want to hear. We could simply be there as they sit with their grief and their love with a now missing object. For Anderson may be right that in the end, grief is but love with no place to go.

For more essays by Iskra Fileva, check out her column at Psychology Today: 

Written By Iskra Fileva
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
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Behind The Veil Of Grief
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Iskra Fileva Ph.D.

Iskra Fileva, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In her academic work, she specializes in moral psychology and issues at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry. The focus of her current research is on the connections and tensions between conscious and unconscious motivation, the nature of moral emotions, and the boundary between bad character and personality disorders. She is, however, interested in all things human: how and what we remember, how we achieve intimacy, what makes some people good at relating to others, why we misunderstand each other, why we fear death, whether adults understand a child's mind, and many others. She enjoys writing for a non-academic audience and has previously written for The New York Times.View Author posts