On the loss of a good mate, award-winning ABC reporter, Paul Lockyer, Ray Martin explained his simple philosophy on grief: “We have to celebrate; it’s too sad otherwise.”
It is, without doubt, a stoic approach to grief. It’s not right for everyone, and it’s not right for all circumstances, for some deaths and tragedies are simply forlorn whichever way we look at them. Indeed, most deaths, and all deaths of family members still with reason to live, will be utterly mournworthy. That point is not in dispute.
But celebrating in grief can offer many of us a soothing and transformational hope; especially in relation to a life well lived, combined with a death where the deceased died doing what they loved doing.
The Courage of Grieving in the Mode of Celebration
I cannot overstate the applicability and limitations of this idea to those more removed than close family members; immediate family must be allowed to grieve as the process of grieving dictates.
But good friends, allies, associates and acquaintances can afford to dwell in celebration, whilst they watch out for family members and close ones needing additional support.
The choice to grieve in a mood of celebration, the disposition of joy, when reflecting over our experiences with the person now gone, where they always brought life, is courage and also wisdom knowing that a forlorn mood—unless grief takes us there deliberately—may distract us from the positive things we might be able, instead, to do. For instance, such focus on sadness may prevent us from supporting the ailing family or being there for a person in a hole of lament. It may restrict our vision.
Distances in Lament
We can suppose that the difference between crippling grief and the sadness of someone lost that we miss, is vast. Familial issues polarise and immortalise grief, at least for a time.
Situational or relational distance from the lament makes for speedier recovery from the grief. It’s obvious the closer we are to the person or issue, the more acute the pain will be. Celebration may be out of our grasp.
But if we can, we should attempt to celebrate the life of the person lost, or the situation changed forever, by knowing the courage and wisdom of doing such a thing, and believing we can do it, if we can. But we must also understand that grief is an uncompromising beast, and oftentimes it insists on having its way.
If celebrating a life of a lost one—or recalling beautiful memories—is possible, all the more blessed are we, and their memory also.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Oceans of Tears by Duchesse Guermante.