Saturday, 30 October 2010

Yet Another Word: GRIEF

Good morning happy readers.

Yes, another week has passed on this glorious island and – yes, once again – it rained for most of it.
So what have I achieved this week? Mmm – well {fanfare trumpets} I managed to complete a couple of chapters on w.i.p. No mean feat given my present state of mind. Taking the plunge, I sat down one afternoon and, allowing for breaks for the Young and the Restless, I read through all that I had written this summer. I decided I wasn’t such a bad writer after all and my tale was worth saving.
I also achieved another different but equally daunting task this week. Since the death of Michael Jackson, I have not been able to watch this great performer, although a kind friend of mine presented me with ‘This is It’ for my birthday. In a way, it was in remembrance of another tragedy that spurred me on to taking the plunge.
28th October, 2010. Oxi Day - the National Greek holiday, celebrating the day when the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas quite vehemently said ‘oxi’ {no} to the axis forces of WW2. Cheeky buggers that Hitler and his fat buddy Mussolini - wanting to march into Greece and set up ‘strategic’ bases. On the morning of October 28, the Greek population took to the streets, irrespective of political affiliation, shouting 'oxi'. From 1942, this day has been celebrated.
But…this day, for myself and many friends here in Corfu, has come to be remembered for a tragedy much closer to home. On this day, 2009, we lost a dear friend; a woman in her prime who, for reasons known only to the powers above, died of an aneurysm. I suppose numb is the only term that springs to mine. Our little community was in shock. We still are. It’s so hard to believe this vibrant mother of two has left us. It makes no sense. But back to Michael….
Perhaps many of you are thinking… how can she compare the death of a close friend to that of a man she did not know? This question leads me nicely into today’s word : Grief.
What is grief, exactly? I am not sure I have the answer – except to say, there is no wrong or right way to grieve nor should there be a scale of grieving.
In the case of MJ, I believe the world saw grieving on a mass scale for several reasons. Personally, I not only mourned the passing of an amazing talent; a man who had been poised to, once more, take the world by storm, by also, but, simmering inside of me was a deep anger. I feel very strongly that this was a man very wronged by the world. He was publically hung, drawn and quartered in the press and ridiculed for, yes, I admit, his oft-strange behaviour. As for his innocence or guilt, I am not getting caught up in that argument. Suffice to say, I have my views and no one will change them. My point is, he was tried and found guilty by an a scavenger press, a press aided and abetted by a salivating public, hungry for scandal with no thought as to how their actions were affecting this man. So what – he’s rich, famous, he deserves it. Who deserves that? Does his wealth make him any less of a human being? Did he not deserve the respect of privacy and compassion we all take for granted? In my mind, what happened to MJ was akin to a public flaying. The humiliation and strain, I believe, caused him to step over that fine line between sanity and total despair. And this is why, I believe, the world-wide grief that manifested after, was a reaction to collective guilt. Somehow – somewhere, the world knew it had contributed to this man’s downfall; a man who only wanted to share his amazing gifts with the world.
Grief – guilt; how they are so often bound together. How many times have we lost a loved one, only to ask ourselves, shoulda, coulda? This year, I have watched many of my friends try to cope with the loss of a parent. I see the same pain every time. Why didn’t I do more? I couldn’t be with them at the end. Unfortunately, this is another down side to living far across the waters from or family. It isn’t always possible for us to be there for them. Work, kids, family responsibilities get in the way. Of course, people understand but it doesn’t erase the guilt. I know this. I lost my sister in 1987. I never made it home in time to say goodbye. Did I feel guilt? You bet I did. Did I grieve? I did – I still do but quietly. I do not openly sob as I did for MJ of Freddy Mercury. Not because, I feel in any way that their death is more important to me. I believe, in fact, it to be the contrary. Sometimes a death so close to home leaves us feeling so bereft we bury our grief. It is too painful to grieve. Perhaps this is why we need the public show of emotion we give to MJ, Diane, Freddy, the Pope – Mufasa even. It is a safety valve that allows all the suppressed emotions we bury to come to the surface; emotions, otherwise, too painful to conjure up. Is this making sense to you all? I hope so.
So, where am I going with this? I think the point I am trying to make is, please do not judge anyone. We all grieve in different ways and for different reasons. Many people need the ritual of funerals and grave visiting. It helps them in the healing process. Personally, I don’t feel the need for this but I understand others that do. Others may refuse to attend and not shed a tear. We cannot possibly know what is going on in their hearts.
Don’t be so quick to scoff at those that do weep for celebrities or for the death of a much-loved pet. This could be their way of dealing with personal grief.
Next week – I will try to find a happier word to dissect. Until then, may the force be with you and live long and prosper.


PS: I didn't cry, watching Michael. I was too fascinated. To what him at work was amazing. Such a perfectionist.


  1. hey Viv, lovely post. I also watched the dvd several times and it's awesome. Too bad that time spopped for MJ before the courtain rase... some time life is just unfair...

  2. Viv,
    Do you really live in this beautiful place??? I agree with the idea of mourning for a public figure. I believe that celebrities become part of our existence and we identify with them in some way. So as with anything that we bond with when a celebrity dies we do mourn a little. I had tears in my eyes for my favorites and yes MJ too, though I wasn't a big, big fan. The woman in your village deserves to be mourned since she went so young. It is the loss of life that we mourn, I believe and waste of time that they could have had.

  3. Viv,
    Well damn, I don't even know where to begin with this one. As you know I have lost the entirty of my family of origin over the span of just over two years. I find your allusion to the mourning of celebrity as some how accessing more personal mourning fascinating. It is certainly not uncommon for one in grief to act out or behave in what might be seen as inappropriate ways.
    Personally, I do not think I have even scraped the surface of my own grief. It is simply too enormous to imagine---too big to wrap one's mind around. While it may be 'normal' to experience the passing of one's elederly parents, it is not so normal to have to watch both succumb to the ravages of progressive degenerative disease while in your care. Parkinson's and ALzheimers are cruel... the 'Long Goodbye" indeed.
    But to lose one's only sibling sandwiched between the loss of each parent--well, as I said, it takes a long time to sink in.

    Fortunate are those of us who have grown our own 'family' as we age. Friends take on a richer deeper significance and the everday becomes sacred.

    A couple weeks ago the smash hit TV program, Glee introduced a song to a new generation that has made the episode top Tweet for the ensuing weeks. Originally sung by Barbra Streisand within the context of the somewhat obscure film, Yentl; the lyrics send a strain of truth reverberating through even the most stoic of us.

    So one commenter on You Tube says:

    "It (Glee) gives the song another voice in which to reach audiences. I am so thankful that Glee does so many tributes, because then I listen to the originals and it gives me the opportunity to experience songs I might have not heard on my own, songs worth listening to."

    Lyrics to "Papa Can You Hear Me"
    Oh God-our heavenly Father.
    Oh, God-and my father
    Who is also in heaven.
    May the light of this
    Flickering candle
    Illuminate the night the way
    Your spirit illuminates my soul.

    Papa, can you hear me?
    Papa, can you see me?
    Papa can you find me in the night?
    Papa are you near me?
    Papa, can you hear me?
    Papa, can you help me not be frightened?
    Looking at the skies I seem to see
    A million eyes which ones are yours?
    Where are you now that yesterday
    Has waved goodbye
    And closed its doors?
    The night is so much darker;
    The wind is so much colder;
    The world I see is so much bigger
    Now that I'm alone.
    Papa, please forgive me.
    Try to understand me;
    Papa, don't you know I had no choice?
    Can you hear me praying,
    Anything I'm saying
    Even though the night is filled with voices?
    I remember everything you taught me
    Every book 1've ever read...
    Can all the words in all the books
    Help me to face what lies ahead?
    The trees are so much taller
    And I feel so much smaller;
    The moon is twice as lonely
    And the stars are half as bright...
    Papa, how I love you...
    Papa, how I need you.
    Papa, how I miss you
    Kissing me good night...

    How I miss you kissing me goodnight.

    Love you Dad, Mom, Bro.

  4. equally sad are those who so fear grief that they shut their hearts away to the joy of love.