good grief ??

This morning, while glancing at the newspaper, I found myself openly weeping at the obituary of a 24-year-old woman shot to death by her boyfriend earlier this week. Of course, her loss was horrible, beyond horrible. But I think it got to me especially because of her photograph. Her faced glowed with warmth and intelligence, and it hurt to see so plainly all that was lost — violently taken, more like it. Around lunchtime, my stomach sank again (and hasn’t yet gotten back up) when I got the news that a friend of mine’s cousin, in a hospital in Seattle, had died. This one got to me I’m sure because of my love for my friend but also because of the thought of three young girls losing their mother. Ouch.

So today two deaths whacked me in the gut, even though I never met either woman. Of course, the grief wasn’t that bad — microscopic compared to their families’.

But it was grief, and the thing is, I think it made me more warm toward other people today. I don’t know — I just felt as if my heart had temporarily enlarged (unfortunately, not a permanent condition). This afternoon I had unusual patience with students (at the Writing Center). And that’s saying something. One student interrupted me every ten minutes or so for well over an hour to read over the last few sentences she’d written in her essay. And each time I got up happily to help her.

So tonight I’m wondering, what was the deal with that? It’s a little fascinating, to be honest, how grief has a way of warming a heart as well as freezing it, of pulling us closer to others just when it’s ripping another from us. But, if so, does that mean that a little grief every day would be good for me? Should we all find a way to increase our sensitivity to the many deaths around us?

I could probably handle this level of grief every day (it wasn’t that bad, after all). I certainly could do with feeling more warmth and patience. So maybe a little grief can make me a more compassionate and less self-focused person. Maybe it’s good for me. Maybe tomorrow’s news will be just the prescription!

Wait-a-minute. Naaahhhh… There’s enough grief out there without looking for it! I’ll stick with just dealing with what pain comes my way — increased warmth and patience or no. Opportunities to grieve are abundant, fortunately and unfortunately.

I guess I’ll never know the “why” of the mysterious warmth, but I can’t help but be thankful for its help.


4 thoughts on “good grief ??

  1. I told Kyle (student consultant I worked with last quarter) about this phenomenon and he said, “ahh, the 9/11 effect.” I guess it is a little like that. But there’s still something different about it, isn’t there? The 9/11 effect applies more to large-scale tragedies(?). This was just a couple of small-scale ones. Or, am I making a needless distinction?

  2. I’m responding with sort of a gut reaction here, without thinking through it, but I think you’re right to make a distinction and his comment even seems somewhat insensitive. The 9/11 effect… Well, I know that when I think about 9/11 as being a mass tragedy it doesn’t affect me the same way that thinking about an article I read about a woman who lost her husband does. (She described not leaving her apartment for six months or something, because they hadn’t found his body and he might call or show up.)

    I can see how those things might make you more patient, maybe more compassionate. Maybe we should all think a little more about how many lives are cut short and how many families are left grieving everyday instead of how badly we wanted into OSU and how Greg got in and didn’t deserve it.

    Anyway, this was a really good post. Kinda gave me goosebumps.

  3. Thanks, Chanel. Oooh, I’m thrilled that my post got to you in some way. I had wanted to write about this experience because it was just so unusual for me to react to tragedy with warmth and not depression. Depression is much more usual for me in those circumstances.
    Don’t get down on yourself, though, for feeling down about not getting into OSU. That’s a significant disappointment (believe me, I know :-)).

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