By Claire Gordon • 28 January 2022 • 10:14
THIS week my family lost another of its greatest characters when my uncle passed away. A personality so large and a person so constant in our lives that the gap he leaves behind is immense. However, it shouldn’t be the gap that we think of when a person leaves this world, but the space they filled when they were here and still do even when they are gone. The thought of that warmth and joy should not be clouded by the fact they are not here in person any more, our grief shouldn’t obscure our memories.
In the same way, we shouldn’t think about death only when it happens otherwise we will lose ourselves when it does. Death is a recurring theme across all of our lives because it happens to us all. Even before times of pandemic and war, even when life is somewhat peaceful, people still die. To ignore this fact or try to remove ourselves from the occurrence will only make the grief and emotion worse when it does inevitably arrive.
“Grief that has been calmed by reason is calmed forever,” said Seneca. While I don’t believe that grief is ever truly gone, I do believe this statement, that your grief can be calmed and shaped into something you can live with more easily but only if you face it head-on.
An ongoing part of preparing ourselves for grief is Memento Mori – ‘remember that you will die’ – because when you keep death in mind, it helps you live while you are still here and appreciate others while they are here too.
Without even realising it, my aunt has embodied a beautiful piece of stoic philosophy after my uncle passed. She has asked people not to comfort her and send only condolences, but to write to her with memories of her husband and their feelings about the man that he was, rather than only focusing on the most mundane and ubiquitous part of our life’s process.
The past we share with people is ours to hold and we can look back with gratitude and be grateful that we got to share them. Seneca also said: “If you admit to having derived great pleasures, your duty is not to complain about what has been taken away but to be thankful for what you have been given.”
We should not wait for someone to be gone before we make these lists of appreciation for them. We can, and should, sit down and write about who we are grateful to and the feelings of joy they bring to our lives before we lose them.
A huge part of grief for many is a lack of clarity around their feelings for the person. “I wish I’d have told them what they meant to me,” rings out as people leave and unspoken words are carried heavily by the people left behind. Please take this column as a prompt to speak those words today and lighten your load.
Claire Gordon’s opinions are her own and are not necessarily representative of those of the publishers, advertisers or sponsors.
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An ex-union representative, Claire Gordon's philosophical views on all things human rights-based is a refreshing take on issues facing the world today.
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