A nation's public grief
Wise Words: grief, grieve
Grief is one of the strongest emotions we can feel. It’s overwhelming. It’s debilitating. It knocks you down so hard that you feel you will never get up again. But when you’re grieving for lost loved ones, there doesn’t seem any point in getting up.
Whether or not they lost loved ones in the Oslo bomb blast or during Anders Behring Breivik’s rampage and massacre on the picturesque island of Utoeya last Friday, everyone in Norway is grieving over the tragic loss of innocent lives. On some level, the nation’s grief is shared around the world. Much of the grieving has been in public, on display on the streets of Oslo. But the raw, desperate grief felt by the relatives and friends of the victims is something we all wish they could have been spared.
When I was recently trying to come to terms with my own grief over the loss of my dear father, a friend recommended that I read A Grief Observed (Über die Trauer), written by C.S. Lewis after the death of his wife. At first, I was reluctant, knowing how religious C.S. Lewis was — and knowing also how angry I was at anyone even suggesting that “God” was now looking after my father. Why should I want my father to be looked after by a God who had allowed him to suffer so much? In the end, however, desperate for something to help me cope with the grief, I ordered the book online. It’s short, but its elegant prose is a comfort.
C.S. Lewis “Grief feels like fear."
Lewis captures perfectly the agony and emptiness of losing someone: “Grief feels like fear,” he writes. “Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth doing anything.”
The grief felt after losing an older relative after a long sickness is nothing like the grief of losing a child or close friend to a callous, methodical killer who used dumdum bullets to ensure death with maximum pain. At the memorial service for the victims at the cathedral in Oslo last Sunday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave a moving speech. He spoke of the the evil, the horror and the ordeal of learning the names of the victims and seeing the images of their faces. "But we will get through that also," he declared.
Over time, people do start to get up again. You have to. It's the only way to cope.