Until we are ready to embrace life again, as healing takes its erratic and eccentric course, all we can ask is for others to be near. Read More
This brief piece has two components; one I fully endorse, the other commonly stated, but which I always have some reservations about. Concerning the healing dimension of the having friends near at times of grief, I have no doubt. We are social creatures who derive strength from others. Loneliness in the face of loss aggravates the pain exponentially.
With regard to how the one who has died in some sense "lives on," from one perspective is true. But in another sense, it has almost always seemed to me to be a rearguard and not truly satisfying attempt to lessen the pain of the loss just experienced. It's a stretch. It always seems to be a not totally successful effort to sweeten and euphemize the unique agony which comes with the loss through death, which of course is eternal. Yes, in a certain sense those we have loved live on in us. But in another sense, even more so, they don't. We will never again have the joy of face to face meeting, or two-way encounter, of shared love, of laughing together, in short of two-way shared experience. There is real and unrequited sadness in that, that can't be overcome by appeals to their "living on" in us. It is the finite attempting to embrace the infinite, which we cannot do. Death brings its penetrating truth. And as Freud said, "The truth cannot be tolerant."
More information about formatting options
Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W., teaches applied ethics at Hofstra University. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than twenty books.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?