Hope and Grief

How do people deal with grief? More specifically, how does grief ever get “properly” dealt with? We all hear that time heals all wounds, and that God has a plan, but when you’re in the midst of a profound loss, what the fuck can can anyone say to assuage any of the hurt that someone is experiencing? For example, a brother of mine has discovered that his wife is not long for this world, and will be traveling to the undiscovered country very soon. I can think of no solace to offer the man; no words of placation or reassurance will make him happier, less fearful, or less hurt. No deeds of mine will replace the love he is about to lose, and surely no profession of God’s love for him will replace the love of the woman he loves, and will soon lose. What then does a man say to a brother in such incredibly and hopelessly trying times?

I suppose that a rational mind can look at the 80+ years this woman has lived and would surely count her lucky, and perhaps even suppose that death at such an advanced age is to be expected; that the shock and hurt of impending death should be tempered by the reasonable expectations that accompany the consideration of age. I’m not saying that the loss isn’t very real, or that someone would not have the right to be upset, and to grieve deeply at the loss of some great love, but surely none of us expect immortality… I’m not sure what I’m getting at. Perhaps never having a loved one of any significant familiar duration die on me makes it hard to relate, and thus, hard to console a grieving friend in such a situation.

And then what about love? Suppose that the person you’re in love with doesn’t die, but is nonetheless taken away from you. Is such a loss even the same? It seems that in both cases love is lost, but one is so final, and so beyond control or human influence that it seems, dare I say, easier to cope with. No amount of hope, wishing, planning, plotting, or scheming will ever bring back the dead. But what of the love lost while both former lovers still live? It seems infinitely more painful having lost such a love because of the hope that remains; the hope that things will somehow workout, that things could be repaired, and that eventually everyone will return to the person with whom they belong (as opposed to the person they end up with).

Hope, then, is an immeasurable source of grief. There is always so much more grief by virtue of hope than by certain doom. It isn’t as though hope is the source of all grief, but it is the case that hope turns grief into an almost unbearable condition; a condition in which the mind becomes consumed by ways to make things better… If only this, if only that. Hope condemns the sufferer to a life without a present, as if the “moving spotlight” that is life illuminates only the past, and the future, but leaves the present in bleak, desperate darkness. The light shines so brightly on the past, with all the joy and beauty, and all the sad missteps, that the present becomes a mere silhouette of what used to be. Hope illuminates the future with such ferocious and radiant a light that it burns and withers the eyes, leaving one to sadly close those hope-weary eyelids and resign themselves to the fantasies of what might be.

So this is life with hope. The clear and familiar past, the blind and gloomy present, and the burning hope-filled future that sets a soul on fire.

Just thoughts tonight everyone. No real point to it I guess. Just reflecting on my grief, my hope, and the accompanying sorrow. To these I raise my glass again…

Yours In Contemplation,
Kierkegaard

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About facedownphilosophy

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5 Responses to Hope and Grief

  1. c. nueva says:

    Our experiences of Hope are very different. My experience of Hope is that it is based on certainty — certainty that the good being experienced in the present will later be received in its fullness.

    • There’s a contradiction in terms in your view of hope. Hope necessarily cannot involve any modicum of certainty; that’s why it’s hope, and not expectation. On your view, you are certain of X, therefore you do not hope for X, you expect X. Those are very different things.

      • c. nueva says:

        Let’s look at experience, not word games and definitions. Things have to stay concrete. Presently and in the past, I have experienced a desire for companionship. In my history and presently, this desire has been fulfilled beyond my expectation — that is, I was fixated on a certain way that I wanted this desire fulfilled, but it ended up being fulfilled in a greater way that I could have thought up. This is the true experience of hope, and this is what hope originally describes — not despair. That is contradiction.

      • c. nueva says:

        Sorry, it takes awhile for me to process things… I don’t think my proposal of true hope is is a contradiction, but a paradox, and I need not say more about your namesake’s passion for the paradox. But this is a paradox of which I have experience and some understanding.
        As I’ve documented, I place my hope (or at least I strive to place my hope consistently) in a God who is personal and loves unconditionally. His love is certain and consistent. I experience it now, and I have hope that I will receive it more perfectly in the life hereafter.
        I have also learned that the times I have crumbled were times that I placed my hope on unreliable things — people, circumstances, material things. That’s when I have reduced my desire for ultimate satisfaction to these things. I become fixated on getting ‘happiness’ my way, and I am unable to see the greater reality that is being offered to me — that all of reality is offered to me as an act of love.
        So, in my experience, yes, hope can lead to despair, but it doesn’t have to. It depends on if the thing I place my hope in is worthy of it.

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