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The Blog

Mourning as Part of Love

Oct 21 2013
Carey Callahan


Things end, and it’s really not ok. I do not agree with this part of reality. I am opposed to it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a design flaw that interferes with the user experience.


Things end, but we don’t. Or, if we’re reading blog posts we haven’t ended yet.


Things end, and we have no idea what to do. Things end, and we can’t even see the holes in our lives until they become giant sinkholes. “Hey, I have no one to report my day to, and I used to have someone I loved reporting my day to.” It takes me months to even register the ache, much less connect it to a need that now is going un-met.


What a terrible way to talk about love. A need met.


“Love” is of course a stupid word. It’s stupid because there are so many different things we could mean when we talk about “love.” If I was willing to do a little wikipedia-ing I would point you to all the different greek words for love at this point.


As far as I’m concerned, there’s love for the animal and love for the spirit. The animal needs love. The animal needs someone to report their day to, they need skin on skin, they need a witness to their tears, they need a group to belong to. Breakups are awful for the animal. As lovely as it would be for the animal to unselfishly wish their former partners joy and peace and may the road rise up to meet them, first the animal needs to fill those sinkholes. Skin on skin, reports of the day, groups and shared meals and witnessing. A dog will be mean if it’s life is mean. When life is changing life can be pretty mean.


Then there’s the spirit. What’s interesting about the spirit is how often it is angling to do its own growth without even letting the animal know that is what’s happening. The spirit says, “Ok, I’m gonna learn this lesson now” and if that means having the animal run right smack into a glass door, the spirit is a-ok with it. Years later, after talking with a couple of different therapists about what changed after their face was smashed to bits by the glass door, the animal will eventually say, “I guess that’s when I learned to look out for doors in a different way.” The latest therapist will nod and smile and consider it a professional victory.


My experience with the spirit is that it straight up doesn’t ever stop loving someone. It loves someone, they leave your life, a decade later you still want to know they are doing ok, you still feel your heart seize when you hear about a tragedy in their life, even if you would cross the street to avoid them.


But for the animal- the animal has to let go. If the animal holds on, the animal won’t ever fill those holes in its life, and life will remain mean, and the animal will get mean.


Filling those holes is sad. It’s sad to move on. It’s sad to change. It’s sad to remember all the good times and put them in the box labeled “my past.”


Which is why I believe in making monuments. It’s why it’s a good thing to be able to write a song or paint a painting. We need to create something to represent those good times that are gone. Love is so powerful, but it goes away and there’s no physical evidence it ever happened. That’s crazy-making. The animal needs some object or place, something out in the world, not just in their memories.


We’re not good at mourning these days. We want people to pull it together, we want them to be doing well, we don’t want to have to worry about them.


I think active mourning, creation in memory of the past, is a project of gratitude. When someone dies, we write out their life and speak out their life and put up a monument to connect with the gratitude that we had them in our lives at all.


When you make a monument, it means your body and your life doesn’t have to serve as the monument. The animal doesn’t need to be miserable to prove that love happened and passed away- that’s what the monument is for. And when the animal needs to be sad, it can visit the monument. As life comes together, and gets sweeter, the animal may visit the monument less and less- but maybe in 50 years the animal may still want to revisit those memories.


If you have had love so sweet you want to revisit those memories years later, that is a blessing of the highest order. You will be grateful you created something to help you revisit those times.


Folks, to wrap up, what I’m saying is, collage it out- COLLAGE. IT. OUT.