Solace in the Face of Grief: Three Expressions of Comfort
In addition to experiencing the tragic loss of someone dear to us, grief visits us, as life sometimes overwhelms us with despair. As life events were making me feel that I had lost something, I realized I was experiencing feelings of grief. At first, I dismissed this notion as how could the loss of someone close compare with other tragedies? Nevertheless, I allowed myself to name the feelings as grief and look for comfort.
Years ago I came across a letter entitled Consolatio ad Uxorem by Plutarch, a Greek who in 6111AD composed a letter of consolation to his wife on the loss of their two year-old daughter. I revisited the letter again to see if I could find comfort from what Plutarch had written so long ago.
With a close reading of his letter, I found three phrases that offered solace and peace.
“. . . something that you believe will make your grief easier to bear, that too you shall have, so it be done without excess or superstition . . . “
Plutach cautions his wife to beware of excess and superstition as the first steps toward reconciliation. Experiencing grief, my emotions overcome logic and balance. Emotions flood my brain with excesses probably related with the flight or fight response. I find it almost impossible to draw on reason. It seems that these excesses compounded with superstition, which fosters the belief that one cause is linked to another without evidence, encourages illogical and discouraging thoughts to dominate. Thoughts cycle round and round, locked by emotions and driven by assumptions. Aware of this cycle, it is possible to disengaged from thinking in loops.
“any extravagance of distress in you, this will be more grievous to me”
In my feelings of grief, I’m constantly aware that if I allowed myself a selfish response by indulging grief, I would actually hurt people I am close to. This is not meant to say that we can’t let others know how we feel. Of course, we must do this, and loved ones want to offer comfort. Part of our comfort is accepting what others can give us, and sometimes holding back a bit of all that is overwhelming us might be a consideration. A friend of mind wisely once said when I suggested a disastrous possible outcome, “Don’t put that out in the air,” she said. I think what she meant is that some of our irrational thoughts gain momentum and validity, reinforcing what may not be helpful.
“we must not sit idle and shut ourselves in, paying for those pleasures with sorrows many times as great”
We can do nothing about some of the circumstances we find ourselves on this earth, such as living and dying. Sometimes injustices and life events are beyond our control. We can control our responses to these events. Should our grief overpower and destroy all the beautiful moments of life? Would our loved ones want us to suffer endlessly with their memory or difficult life outcomes? Does misfortune outweigh all the kindnesses shown us? How can we now bring some good on this earth by reaching out to others? “We should not consider the small good a great evil, nor, because Fortune did not add what we hoped for, be ungrateful for what was given.“
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We experience lovely moments on this earth as we spin around the sun in the vast universe of emptiness. We are precious, for if we were found on a distant solar system, we would be celebrated as miraculous. We live on this planet after fourteen billion years as our universe continually expands at exactly the perfect rate. Supernovas create the elements necessary for life, and like the supernovas, we exist in a flash of time.
Plutarch comforts his wife to resist those manifestations that darken our thoughts leaving us unable to accept soothing influences. That is all we can do and all we must do, for our moments are precious and soon lost to the passage of time.
Enya ~ A Moment Lost
Two excellent links:
Part One, When You’re Grieving
Part Two, Helping a Grieving Friend