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The film that makes me cry: Up | The film that makes me cry | The Guardian

“For as one reweaves the fabric of one’s life after a loss, and as the thoughts around which one has defined one’s aims and aspirations change tense, one becomes to that extent a different person.”  So writes the philosopher Martha Nussbaum in her magisterial book Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions—a book stimulated by Nussbaum’s own experiences of grief over the death of her mother.

Recently a congregant sat in my office and talked about how many folks are currently in a state of grief, mourning various losses.  So it seemed appropriate to write a column on resources I’ve found helpful in dealing with grief and that you might as well.

So many types of loss assail us, and we grieve differently with each.

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s A Long Letting Go is a series of short meditations written for caregivers accompanying a loved one at the end of life.  She writes about the mourning that occurs even before the loss is final.

A dear former congregant once gave me Grieving Mindfully by Sameet Kumar, a helpful guide through the grieving journey, using the methods of mindfulness that originate in Buddhism.  Kumar writes near the end that “the ultimate memorial to any relationship you have lost is self-improvement, letting yourself grow, adapt, and change into a better person, integrating the loss into a better life.”

For those who want to intellectually under grief better, I recommend Michael Cholbi’s Grief: A Philosophical Guide.  His basic approach is that “grief presents us with a rare opportunity to relate to ourselves more fully, rationally, and lovingly.”  Grief creates an opportunity to know ourselves better, and so is an active and creative process, not just some passive experience of feeling.

If it is the loss of a relationship you are grieving, then I highly recommend Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams, which helpfully explores the latest medical and scientific understanding of how our bodies and minds are affected when a relationship ends.

A key aspect of any season of grieving is finding ways to lament.  You must find what works for you.  Back in 2004, during one season of grieving, I remember lying in bed crying while listening to the choral music “When We No Longer Touch” recorded by Dallas’s Turtle Creek Chorale.  I might also suggest the poems of Louise Glück, Mahler symphonies, or a movie that always makes you cry (like the opening of Up).  Or try writing your own lament psalms.

We are grappling with new forms of loss and grief.  Hannah Malcolm has edited a collection entitled Words for a Dying World about the grieving associated with climate change.  She writes in the introduction, “If grief is an expression of love, our grief takes on the shape of the places and creatures to whom we intimately belong.  We mourn the death of the world because it is where we come from.”

Find how lamenting works for you, and then find what is consoling.  I’ve recommended a handful of times Michael Ignatieff’s book On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times, which was written in the wake of the Covid pandemic, and explores different people through history and how they found consolation from their griefs.

Be open and creative in your search for consolation—a quiet walk around the lake, contemplative prayer, delving deeply into a creative hobby, working on home projects, gardening, taking up a new sport, hosting a dinner party, going dancing or to a concert.  The goal, as Ignatieff writes is “to be reconciled to one’s losses, to have come to terms with one’s shame and regrets, and to feel, despite everything, alive to the beauty of life.”

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