I was overwhelmed with this question recently when I found my old address book and realised that so many friends were no longer around. I was reminded of all the women and men I’ve loved who died so young, leaving young kids or bereaved parents behind: three of cancer, one of Motor Neuron disease, one of a heart attack, two in car accidents, one by suicide.
And I wondered how other people deal with the grief from all the losses we’ve suffered and the impending losses we know are yet to come?
I was again reminded recently of this question when watching a very moving documentary about an art project called Rider Spoke, created by a group called Blast Theory — an interactive work which was brought to Sydney in 2009 as part of the British Council’s Creative Cities program.
The viewer becomes a participant. The piece involves people putting on headphones and taking out bicycles that they are given by the hosting gallery, and going for a ride alone in the dark around London. As they ride they listen to the voices of other participants who are answering intimate questions asked of them by the artist, and they speak into the microphone for others to hear.
As time went on for the cyclists, fear started coming up in the dark, or loneliness; they all started talking more honestly about their thoughts and feelings and what they regretted most in life or cherished. In a very compelling scene a young man was saying: “What I most value now is the ability I have to make choices. Mostly because of all the people who no longer can. Danny and Rose and Eddie and . . . who made so few choices at all.”
But also because of the women and men I’ve loved who died so young.
So how do we cope, what do we do with the grief from all the losses we’ve suffered and the impending losses we know are yet to come?
A new friend said to me: “I’ve been to too many funerals this month. I cope by enjoying every moment that I’m alive. I do it in honour of those who can’t do it any more.” Another told me she no longer does anything or tolerates anyone she doesn’t like. “Time is too short.”
It’s not as if we can ever let go of the pain and fear of loss. But living well and living passionately is our only defence against the nagging truth of mortality. And if our departed loved ones could talk, they would echo the mantra: “Dance as if no one is watching.”
Write on my blog. How have you dealt with loss?
Share your stories of loss. How have you coped with grief and loss of a friend. family member or even pet?
MAL AND DIANNE MCKISSOCK THE SYDNEY BEREAVEMENT CENTRE