Grief is Love.

I wrote the first part of this article in 2021. I reflected back on it and discovered how much it still rings true, especially in light of the recent decision made about a “prolonged grief disorder” in the DSM 5.

Loss — A sculpture by Jane Mortimer sits in the darkness of blue hour at Malone House in Belfast, Ireland.
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

“Does grief ever end?”

The question hung in the air for a moment. This person, my friend, was referring to the grief caused by the loss of someone they loved very much. Cautioned by the silence between us, I sucked in my breath. I stopped for a moment and thought about how I would answer this seemingly simple, yet so complicated, question.

No, it doesn’t. Grief does not end. The kind of grief that rocks your world, shakes your core, the kind my friend was referring to that comes with the decline and death of another human being does not end. There will never come a day when you sit up in bed and feel like it is finally gone, leaving your body behind as its ghostly shape ascends into the heavens. That type of grief is only in the movies.

There is no cure for grief. Just as there is no cure for being human. Grief is as much a part of our human condition as the blood that runs through our veins. We were never meant to live forever. Mortality is a fact of being human, therefore, so is grief. We live great big lives, we do the very best we can, then we return to where we came from. The result of that is to be grieved.

When you are ushered out of this world, your life also will be grieved. But, it will be celebrated as well. A somber celebration of tears and sorrow. The people who loved you will ache, they will be in tremendous pain over the loss of your spark on this earth. They will remember your laughter, the jokes you told, the way you held a baby in your arms, your many accomplishments and even your mistakes. They will look back with fondness. They will carry your legacy forward in their hearts with love.

When that happens, when the love pours out in a flood of sobs until they can cry no more, grace will take over. Grief will slide back into the murky depths, quietly waiting for its moment to return.

And it will return. It will return in the quiet, it will return at the most inopportune times. Grief will return when you least expect it. But that is okay because, by the time it does, you will have experienced grace. Grace will guide you through the grief. The three of you will swim together through the sea of fear, agony, and eventually love.

I learned so much about that love when my younger brother died in 2013. He passed very suddenly of a ruptured brain aneurysm. There are facts surrounding his death that are still a mystery to my family. We can only speculate on what really happened in the end.

My brother spent a good majority of his life abusing substances, committing petty crimes, and generally wreaking havoc on himself and those around him. He was empty much of the time, trying to fill himself up with co-dependent relationships. He was messy, messy enough to father three children by three different mothers and not really provide for those children or have any sort of relationship with any of them.

My brother was so consistently teetering on the edge between life and loss that my parents contemplated buying a burial policy for him long before he reached his 30’s. We knew his days on this earth living the way he did were numbered. We prepared ourselves for the next call of paranoia. We grieved his passing long before it happened.

That call eventually came, but it wasn’t from him, it was from the hospital letting my parents know what had happened and that he was at the end.

At the end is where I found the love. It was grief that led me there. It was grace that moved me through it. My brother and I were estranged towards the end. After years of picking up the pieces behind him, I stepped away. No one could blame me, but I suppose there were times I still blamed myself. Especially because he had become sober at the end. He made music, his music. He shared his life with others. He renewed his faith and was striving daily to live his best life. In the end is where he gave his greatest gift to the world. He was an organ donor. He had become sober and all of his organs could be donated. That was his last wish. It was granted.

It was Jamie Anderson who wrote, “Grief is love with no place to go.” Grief doesn’t have to be love with no place to go. Love, the kind of love you discover in the experience of grief, definitely has a place to go. It goes inward in the form of grace, it goes outward in final acts like those of my brother’s organ donation. It resides in the remembrance of a life led, a full human life with all of its trespasses and triumphs.

Grief is love. Period. It does not end because love does not end.

The American Psychiatric Association has named “Prolonged Grief Disorder” as the latest attempt in a long line of them to pathologize humans right out of existing in our natural state; as human beings.

Grief does not have a set system of parameters we must follow. Even the “Stages of Grief” by Elizabeth Kubler Ross was not meant to be followed strictly. Not to mention, the original stages were for people who had terminal illness.

We do not get to define what someone else’s grief is. Grief is unique, like a fingerprint. This new “diagnoses” is just another way to deny our humanity. It is another way to avoid the overwhelming death toll of a pandemic that either a) so many deny ever happened or b) so many want desperately to end, even though it hasn’t, so they can get back to capitalism.

People are desperate to avoid the feelings, the government is ready to get back to business as usual, so the solution in late stage capitalism is avoidance and pathology. The avoidance leads to pathology leads to psychiatrists and therapists getting paid, which harms their clients.

There are alternatives to pathology of grief, including trauma-informed and responsive death doulas/companions and grief guides. There are Death Cafe’s and grief support groups but NONE of these are covered by insurance, so if they cost any amount people are more apt to turn to a therapist, despite the pathology, for help with their grief.

What does this all mean?

It means our culture around death, grief, loss, and bereavement needs to change. Those who are working in the system and as agents of the system have a unique opportunity to say “I won’t do this, I won’t harm through pathologizing.” They can reduce their fees. They can refer people to death and grief workers who work on sliding scale or even pro-bono.

Pathologizing grief is not going to help anyone. It is a tool of the system to line the pockets of insurance company executives.

Human beings deserve better than having their sorrow pave the way to profit.

Ori Aguila is a deathwalker, artist, and poet moving unapologetically through midlife. A chronically ill polymath multi-hypenate with PTS(D) and adult diagnosed ADHD, they have spent the last 30 years quietly caring for the grieving, the dying, those experiencing loss and sometimes documenting those journeys in visual and written storytelling. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to give the clap button a couple taps at the end and share!

Learn more about their life, work, and connect on social media at https://msha.ke/stolenindigenousadoptee.

--

--

--

A grief and loss writer-educator -artist and deathwalker with a justice & liberation lens — Website: msha.ke/thedeathcompanion

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

The Nature of Time

The Inspiration for Caregiver Support Technologies

Mach 3.5

How I Met My Brother: Never Stop Believing!

Elderly Parents Fed Up with COVID-19 Social Isolation?

Listening and Sharing

Its hard.

The Rosary, a Vietnam War story

The Rosary

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ori Aguila

Ori Aguila

A grief and loss writer-educator -artist and deathwalker with a justice & liberation lens — Website: msha.ke/thedeathcompanion

More from Medium

A Perspective on Love

9 words and 2 years after the loss of my 1st kid

THE STRANGERS IN MY HOUSE

Okay God, Get Me Out Of This One