Grief, like love, is a complex of feelings, emotions,
memories and thoughts. Grief inspires the deepest inquiries into the
nature and meaning of existence. Even the distress of talking about grief
reminds us that this complex of feeling, memories and thought is an important
regulator of human affairs. As soon as you care about someone else, you incur
the risk of losing him or her. If you become complacent over time, watching the
suffering of others who have lost a loved one is a powerful reminder to be more
careful. The prospect of grief is so daunting that humans who care for one
another are more concerned and cautious in their custodial role, protecting
loved ones. People who have experienced a loss or near-loss will often
declare that they became more appreciative of those around them.
Pure, pristine grief is our response to death. There is an
initial emotional state with "outpouring of emotion". The expression is
unmistakable in many cultures - crying, wailing, self-injury and self-neglect.
The passionate stage of grief tends to last hours to days. When a loved
one dies, grief is inevitable but the onset may be delayed.
A sudden death is especially confusing, hard to believe and
impossible to accept. A state of suspended disbelief may last for days or weeks,
but sooner or later, grief explodes as the terrible truth is realized with
clarity. The emotional expression of grief may be ritualized and dramatized as
part of funeral observances. Grief emerges overtime with sustained dysphoric
Sadness is a subdued expression of grief that may last for
years or even a lifetime. Sadness is both a feeling of loss and withdrawal
from life involvements. There is a gradation of sadness from mildly
uncomfortable feelings expressed by poems and little tears to despair. The deep,
impenetrable sadness of someone grieving the loss of a person truly loved is one
of the hallmarks of sentient life on earth. Some humans do not survive their
grief because the sadness is so profound and the loss so complete that life is
not worth living.
Humans who have caused the loss of a loved one,
accidentally or intentionally, have a debt to pay. The death-maker caused the
survivors’ grief and survivors will experience mixed and sometimes prolonged
sequences of sorrow, anger, hatred. Sooner or later, they seek revenge.
Anger and revenge are antidotes to the
self-destructive possibilities of grief. The question is do you kill yourself
because you cannot bear the pain of loss or do you kill the person who caused
your grief? Some humans do both. Some grieving survivors spend the rest of their
life seeking revenge for the harm done to them and are not satisfied with
partial remedies. Twenty years after a murder caused their grief, family members
will gather at an austere prison to watch the execution of the murderer and will
express satisfaction that “justice has been done”.
The term grief appears in a diminutive form in the term
“grievance.” The idea remains the same; anyone who has suffered a loss will feel
entitled to compensation. Law suits often award damages for “pain and
suffering”. Grief is rewarded by payment and the bigger the grief, the bigger