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« Grief and Acceptance - Part VII | Main | Grief and Acceptance - Part IX (Time) »

February 21, 2012


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Bill Kleine

My oldest son's mental illness took his life at the beginning of his 22nd year and so I have spent the last 4 years considering grief with the help of a skilled psychologist. I believe grief is inextricbly intertwined with love. It is not the loss of John's smile but it's having known his smile that draws grief from me. Saddness is a primitive emotional response; dogs teach us that. Grief is that complex mental structure we use to try and make sense of a whole jumble of emotional states that loss evokes.

From a cancer patient's perspective I love my life, the people who make up my world and the joy we share, the work I did, the things that I once so effortlessly enjoyed. I grieve at the pain my illness brings and at the loss of so many abilities. I grieve at the possibility [probability] I will die. I sometimes become sad because things are not how I would like them to be. Sadness is as transient as any other emotional state. But I grieve because I love. Structures like grief and love are with us for the long haul.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Bill,

My sincere condolences on the loss of your oldest son. You know grief in ways most of us don't. The profound nature of such a loss can teach you things about grief it's hard to learn any other way. So thank you for sharing your hard-won insights.

I can easily accept that grief related to the loss of a child is inextricably linked to love. And I, too, see grief as a complex mental structure used to try to make sense of the mix of emotions stirred by loss.

I will use your statements about time and grief as a starting point for my next post.

Thank you again for your willingness to share here. I hope to do it justice in our discussion.

With hope, Wendy

Polly Leshan

For wise and wonderfully written reflections on grief following the unexpected death of his daughter, I highly recommend Roger Rosenblatt's two books, MAKING TOAST and KAYAK MORNING.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Thanks for the recommendations, Polly. I'll order them for my e-book and likely review them on this blog.

With hope, Wendy

Jan Baird Hasak

Grief is so very complicated, but always comes to us at some point or points in our lives. Our struggles and coping with grief differ as much as our uniqueness in personalities. I've had my share, losing both parents, a husband to divorce/betrayal, and two bouts with breast cancer and health sequelae from cancer treatment. But I've made it and feel stronger than ever. Thanks for this insightful post.

Jeanne M. Hannah

This is a fascinating dialogue. Thank you, Wendy, for facilitating it. Love and loss and grief are such complicated and intertwined states of mind. From my personal perspective, it was and is always important to try to remain fluid . . . not to get stuck in one of those places. Thus, this has been my mantra for many years: "In spite of illness, in spite even our archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long after the date of usual disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways." Edith Wharton

From my perspective as a family lawyer, helping families through what is often complicated and painful divorce issues and loss, sometimes helping parents with abduction issues, it has always been important to me to empower my clients by providing to them the knowledge they needed to get them through the night--to formulate realistic expectations about what relief the court is likely to give them. Encouraging hopefulness that is not unreasonable provides a basis for comfort and the foundation for acceptance at the end of the day. I think I learned those things from Wendy.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Dear Jeanne,
Thank you for sharing the Wharton quote. Your conclusions about hopefulness foreshadow future posts in the series. With hope, Wendy

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