grief – the price we pay for love

grief

the price we pay for love

Dying in the midst of the covid pandemic, it was only last month that we said a final farewell to my 96yr old mum, celebrating her life with a service of thanksgiving.

Mother of Mary HainesEchoes of what was said about her resonate with the comments being made about Queen Elizabeth II in the wake of her recent death – duty, service to others, family commitment, love, constancy, humour.

Mum had been a constant in my life for nearly 60 years and so although unsurprised by her death and after a life well lived, I grieved for all that she meant to me and the big hole she would leave behind in the lives of all who loved her.

Grief is the price we pay for love, as the Queen herself once remarked, so unless we decide to live in a vacuum, surrounding ourselves with invisible barriers that let no-one in, we are all likely at some time, to experience the deep deep sorrow of grief. We have no choice but to live in this world without the physical presence of that loved one in our daily life, for it is as likely to be our faithful pet as another human being that we long for.

Grief is something we have to embrace, to walk with, as we make sense of our new reality and come to accept the changes forced upon us by the finality of death. Mourning is part of that process and it is interesting to see how collective mourning, the like of which we are experiencing at this moment with the passing of the Queen, draws people together and creates a sense of unity and intimacy. Our neighbours become our friends as we bond in our sadness. Of course there will be some who do not share in this sentiment and wonder what all the fuss is about but for those who do, perhaps in the face of such a public death, emotions rise to the surface of our own private sorrows of loved ones who have died and the grief, buried deep, is sometimes still to be found raw and active.

I was once told working through grief is hard work as it forces us to focus on painful and heart wrenching emotions. It is of little surprise then that for many it is preferable to bury the emotions deeply within and to escape the grief by constant activity, or stimulants such as alcohol, anything that relieves the need to face up to a death that has torn us apart inside.

To run away from death may be a necessary coping mechanism but in the long run it can prevent us finding happiness in a new relationship because of the fear that they may die and leave us too. Somehow we need to find a way through that allows us to live again with joy, but also recognising that part of us will always be sad and that’s OK. I heard a story of a widow whose children were still very young so she felt the responsibility of not putting her grief on them. Once a day she allowed herself 10 minutes of time to go to the bathroom, lock the door and scream. That may not work for everyone but for her it gave her time to acknowledge her inner grief and then show a happy face to her children.

A listening ear, small acts of kindness and time are perhaps the most effective ways we can help or be helped when grieving. Being there for one another can bring comfort and joy. In our relatively short time on the waterways we have received so much kindness and witnessed it around us in the interactions of other boaters. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and as the winter bites, the cost of living soars and the state of the world depresses, helping each other out is more important than ever. In the Bible, God says his greatest commandment is that we love him and the second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. A timely reminder of how true this is and how each of us has the ability to do just that.

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About Mary Haines

Mary and her husband Richard are both vicars and are shortly to be registered as Waterways Chaplains. They live in a house, but spend as much time as possible on their 43ft narrowboat Naomhog (‘Little Neave/Saint’ or ‘Holy Little One’). They love meeting and talking to people, and their kettle is always on the boil.