“What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Grief and the love of life are twins, natural human skills that can be learned first by being on the receiving end and feeling worthy of them, later by practicing them when you run short of understanding.”
– Stephen Jenkinson
These questions from Stephen Jenkinson, author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, continue to challenge my beliefs about the nature of grief each time I read them. If grief is a skill – and I’m ever more certain it is – then what am I doing to learn it more comprehensively? I’ve definitely been on the “receiving end” with not only the physical deaths of those I love, but with endings and transitions in relationships, livelihood, health, dreams – the countless and sundry goodbyes that are part and parcel of living.
How can grief and the love of life not be twins? They’re inseparable, and yet we continue to polarize them. We badmouth grief and hold it apart from the love of life like an island we’re banished to when things get really bad, and if we dwell there too long, we’re in trouble. Maybe we don’t feel worthy of grief at all considering the ways we attempt to avoid it? And if that’s true, then how can we feel worthy of love?
I am worthy of my grief for Kissie because I was worthy of her love, and she of mine. I don’t believe they could exist without each other. I love life anyway. Intensely so. I “practice” my grief by experiencing it, writing about it, talking about it, and questioning the ways in which our culture hinders its acceptance and expression. How do you practice?