"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief?

A Grandmother has ears that truly listen, arms that always hold, love that’s never ending, and a heart that’s made of gold.

My grandmother (my mom's mom) passed on Sunday. That's three grandmothers in the last six months that I have lost. While I'm lamenting their absence from my life, I am celebrating their peace and Heavenly embrace.
There’s a story by Anton Chekhov entitled, simply, “Grief”--also sometimes called "Misery"--which speaks to what grief may require--and to how the process of writing might contribute to the healing of grief.

The Chekhov Story –
When the story begins a cab-driver waits at twilight in the snow for a fare. His son has died the previous week. He waits a long time in the snow, and then finally—a passenger. As the evening wears on, the cab-driver attempts conversation with three different passengers. Three different times he attempts to tell his story—what has happened with his son. Each of the three interrupts him. One closes his eyes to stop the story. One informs him that we all must die. One simply gets out of the sleigh. Still later, the cab-driver attempts to stop and speak with a house-porter, but the house-porter tells him to drive on.
The driver asks himself: “To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief?” There’s so much that the cab-driver needs to tell. Chekhov writes:

One must tell it slowly and carefully; how his son fell ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died. One must describe every detail of the funeral, and the journey to the hospital to fetch the defunct’s clothes. His daughter Anissia remained in the village—one must talk about her too. Was it nothing he had to tell? Surely the listener would gasp and sigh, and sympathize with him?

The details must be told. And then—that gasp—that sigh—from the listener.
At the end of the day the cab-driver returns to the stables. He begins to speak to his horse:

Now let’s say you had a foal, you were that foal’s mother, and suddenly, let’s say, that foal went and left you to live after him. It would be sad, wouldn’t it?

The horse munches his hay and breathes his warm breath—and does not interrupt him. And that is how the story ends—with the cab-driver telling his story, finally, to his horse.
Perhaps what grief requires, as much as anything, is that the process not be interrupted. We need to tell and share our grief, even if only through writing.

I’ve been reviewing stories I wrote about my grandmothers before their passing. Feelings so raw and bittersweet well up, all part of the grieving process.
I recently came across this interview with Joyce Carol Oates on Why We Write About Grief.

What about you? Do you write in or about grief? How has it helped or hindered your mourning process?


D.G. Hudson said...

When I've lost those close to me (both parents, two grandmothers, two grandfathers and a younger brother), I write a commemorative story on what they meant to me and a little about them. This is so I have some closure.

We each deal with grief in our own way. I find writing helps me deal with loss and the other negatives of life.

Unknown said...

So sorry for your loss, Sylvia. Keep writing through the pain. It will help.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Writing is our way of processing what we're feeling, and a way of healing, and sharing our grief. Blessings to you as you remember.

Sharon Himsl said...

Sorry for your loss, Sylia. It's never easy.

Ann said...

Oh, Sylvia, I'm so sorry! Keep the faith. You're an inspiration to us all!

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry for your losses-- how sad your heart must be. I do find processing about pains to be healing. If nothing else it helps me sort through my thoughts. But I find it difficult to "spill my guts" to just anyone, especially when the pain is raw and fresh. Then I just feel exposed.

Rob-bear said...

Sorry to learn of your loss, Sylvia.

Both of my parents have died. But, strangely perhaps, I felt neither desire nor need to write about that. They were both in their mid-90s, and had lived to see the arrival of their first great-grandchild.

Blessings and Bear hugs!
Bears Noting
Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Sylvia.

When we lost our son, I wrote about it on my blog. I still write about him from time to time, particularly on his birthday or at Christmas. It helped being able to set down my feelings that way, and I can look back to remind myself of the impact he had on our lives.

One thing I also did, which I maybe lost myself in a little, was pour my energy into writing. When everything else around me felt like chaos and alternating feelings of loss and love from friends and family, writing was my centre. It was the one thing I could control. I finished one of the manuscripts I was writing at the time, and I'm preparing for the release of the book it eventually became.

Diana Wilder said...

I'm so sorry, Sylvia. Someone said (I think it was C. S. Lewis) that we do not only grieve for the lost loved one, but for the part of ourselves that reacted to the loved one, now also lost. My dear father died a year ago next Tuesday, and at every turn I come up against something he did or said that made my life so much better. He was a fine man.

My most recent book is about a man who has lost his son very suddenly, and he has to go off in anonymity to come to terms with the loss and his grief. In the course of it, he realizes that there are many types of loss - the little girl who grew into the woman who is your daughter and the mother of your grandchildren. The daughter is alive - but the little girl is gone.

It is a strange, sometimes painful, sometimes lovely journey. From what I glean about your grandmothers, there is much that was wonderful to remember.

Diana at About Myself By Myself

Sylvia Ney said...

Thank you all for your well wishes and for sharing some of your own grief. Yesterday was the funeral which was very hard for me. I'll be spending the next week helping to clean out her home and storage units - also very hard. I haven't written anything since her passing, but I have been reading things I wrote to and about her. I'm sure it all helps, and eventually I'll get back to writing. Thank you all again!

loverofwords said...

I am so sorry about your losing something very precious -- grandmothers! Imagine having three grandmothers in your life! The Chekhov story is my favorite. But there are two translations at the end. One -- "He (the cabdriver) tells her all about it." The other: "He tells her everything." "All about it," does not describe the pathos of the story, but the second one does. Just a few words, but what a difference. Translators have such a responsibility.

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

sending my sympathies as well. It might be very healing, though sad, to things you wrote to her. Words can keep people with us.
God bless you at this time.