GRIEF & HOPE

Life is a process of constant motion. The motion, however, can be of a linear, circular or retrograde character. Only linear motion results, of course, in consistent incremental output, viz, an ascending, stable edifice. This output, though, can be interrupted by the loss of someone or something close to or intimate with the person.

Then the party can be afflicted with grief as well as be confronted with the conundrum of a possible replacement of the person or thing lost. It is a conundrum since a successor that is sought too soon or too late can be equally adverse.

For, if too soon, then it would suggest that the successor is fully interchangeable with that which was lost and thus there was nothing unique or special in nor depth to the relationship that lapsed. But, if too late, then it would suggest that nothing of which did transpire in the relationship was so important or worthwhile that an effort to replicate it would justify the effort. Either construction would intimate that the experiences and time involved could be construed as having been, at least relatively, squandered.

But, on analysis, one can distinguish and reveal these termini with greater clarity. Let us look first at the state of the expired relationship.

The initial reaction to the absence, depending upon the nature of the relationship, can be a profound sense of loss, a pervasive loneliness. Thus, there can be resistance to a hasty replacement due to a recognition of the depth and importance of the vanished relationship, the joy which was experienced, and the reluctance to dilute the effects, and even more painfully the possibility of shrouding the remembrance, of those experiences. While sadly those memories, and even the ability to easily visualize the late presence of what was lost, will begin to fade, there nevertheless will exist an aversion to accelerating the process through obscuring them by a substitute presence.

In those instances, the grief consists of the lack of opportunity now to display joy toward or demonstrate affection for the thing or being that has been lost. While the sentiments that are the subject of this initial phase are unilateral in nature, they have a natural, though converse, relationship to the importance of the role relationship between the two. However, if the person were to succumb too readily to this grief, by seeking an opportunity to display affection, then it would compromise, or be inconsistent with the depth of, the relationship between the survivor and that which was lost; accordingly, there is an inherent resistance to seek a substitute opportunity to display affection.

Such an opportunity, for the present now gone, is by its nature active. Consequently, it consists of, through such demonstration of joy and affection, making the being — or in the case of an activity, the observers thereof or participants therein — delighted and gratified. In this the opportunity then was a selfless outwards expression of one’s emotions and therefore an unselfish action.

Thus, a certain period of time is required to become reconciled to this state of absence. Eventually one is confronted with another, new choice — whether to persist in avoiding resumption of what was lost. Therefore, now let us look at the state of the  absent experiences.

In due time, then, the usual inclination would be to decline prolonging further the replacement of what was lost; what was the pervasive loneliness is eventually overridden by something stronger — the need to experience again the same state of bliss. For the person would recognize his need to experience again what he knew, both for the pleasure and felicity it engendered and for a quasi-resurrection of the importance and significance to him of what or who he knew before, albeit in a transformed shape. If one does not select a replacement then it denigrates the importance of what was contributed to him by what was lost.

But the choice also constitutes a recognition of the reciprocal nature of the relationship, one through which what was lost delivered happiness or returned the affection to him; thus, to this extent, the need to find a replacement could be characterized as a selfish action. Still, such a characterization might be too harsh. For while the nature of the person’s participation in this phase is more passive, the relationship was not of unilateral benefit only.

For, even if passive, a benefit is only yielded if the object of affection demonstrates the effect of the observer’s actions or behavior. Nevertheless, the demonstration can be isolated or reciprocal, with both modes being components of the larger set of implicit reciprocity. [In this regard, the demonstration, ideally perhaps, is most salutary when it bears an isolated aspect, when the person is an observer only rather than contemporaneously engaged or a direct recipient. For the person either might prefer not to be seeking some acknowledgment for his efforts or simply might feel uncomfortable with a display of affection. In the latter event, the sincerity of the compassionate actions still can be genuine, even if perhaps the person prefers an emotional detachment.]

What might be concluded from such a process of wrestling with grief? One conclusion that might be strongly suggested is that the fear of supplanting memories is overcome by the later perceived need to renew the context of those memories in order to avoid the forgetting of them.

Since these scenarios of loss and grief are inherent in and to life, they, and the employment of the remedies for curing them, will be a regular feature of existence. And as it would seem it must be concluded grief constitutes one of those factors negative and contrary to a constructive life, then minimizing this influence (which detracts from and attacks such a life) is necessary for nurturing this form of life. How then would one marginalize grief?

In answering this it would seem we have to identify what quality or state constitutes a polarity and an antidote to it. If the course of one’s life has consisted of an abundance of phenomena, then it would seem there should be less cause for grief. For perhaps the more active one’s life has been, the corollary will be an expectation of continued and constant growth. And the progeny of an expectation of something is the hope of its transpiring. Another conclusion then that might be strongly suggested is that Hope is the primary motivating factor for a constructive life. Thus, the better question perhaps is how then would one nurture and elevate hope?

One method, perhaps, is to maintain an dynamic life since one, in addition to enhancing one’s expectations, then would have reduced time to grieve, thereby providing greater latitude for the admittance of hope. Still perhaps if there was more satisfaction or contentment previously, then there is more likely to be more grief occasioned by its loss. Thus paradoxes exist: while grief might be enhanced if one’s life has not been active and filled, since one then would perceive it to be at least partially squandered, still a life filled with a large volume of events likely could make the loss thereof be perceived as greater and more intense — and thus yielding greater grief.

How then does one ameliorate this problem by vitiating this paradox? Perhaps by access to and entry into a community, as regular interaction will magnify opportunity for an experiential abundance. It would seem then that bliss may well consist of engagement in community. Such a proposition would then yield that displaying love is a human need. Because of the environment, it manifests itself in mutual engagement, thereby engendering in the other a sense of worth and value. It consequently is an active element. However, too large a community would interfere with any single relationship within it being developed to its optimum extent. Thus, while more than one person is necessary — a community by definition consisting of more than the singular — too large a volume would detract from its beneficial quality. Hence the serenity and tranquility that proceeds from Hope is cultivated in a restricted framework of intimate, austere connections.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
30 Dec 2015

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