Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Language of Grief

I was just on-line with a friend that I hadn't spoken to in a while, and he told me that his mom just passed away. My first impulse was to pick up the phone and make a condolence call, but I realized that I didn't have his phone number. He is one of those people in my life whom I rarely see, but will always like and admire. Email is pretty much our sole source of communication, as it is somehow just enough to stay in touch.

I therefore did my best to express my thoughts electronically, via IM. It has the advantage of being instantaneous, like a written conversation, although, still somehow it seemed a bit weird,a post-modern we-all-live-in-our-basement kind of thing. But this is our preferred medium of communication in so many instances.

There is nothing like the loss of a parent. What amazes me is how many people have lost a mom or a dad and yet go on, functioning, with this big hole in their heart. It's really an expected part of life, that eventually you will outlive your parents, but nonetheless, it's heart-wrenching in a way that you never get completely back to what feels like your old carefree self.

As I was trying to writing about this to my friend, I was tearing up. It occurred to me that in IM speak, we can LOL -- but how do we COL -- cry out loud? And if we could, would we? It's okay to be bitter, sarcastic, happy, manic, angry, sleepy, depressed, even drunk -- just don't be sad. Unfiltered, uncontained sadness makes us too uncomfortable. Other cultures feature wailing and the rending of garments upon the loss of a loved one. In America, our idol is Jackie Kennedy, who was stoic and strong after the assasination of JFK. It's not that I don't admire her, too -- who wouldn't? But where is the room in our society for the normal human emotion of grief and sadness? Where is that language?

I hope wherever he is, my friend is having a good cry for his mom. I'm sure she deserves it.

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