Grief that’s Unable to be Mourned Because the Loss is Not Recognized

From my journal for May 15, 1994, posted on April 23, 2022

I feel empty and heavy inside, back to the bombed-out house, carrying the burden of grief.  Standing on the sidelines, watching the enormous pageant of life-and-death — clouds, chickadees, hemlocks, mountains — and where is the life that’s on the other side of all this dying?  It’s not death that’s the problem, I can see the life that’s on the other side of death, lit with eclipse light, bright grass streaming in the wind, death is pageant and beauty and the edges of things, sudden violent storm, rainshower and then sun gleaming again.  What I’m feeling is not death, not grief for a clear loss, but the heavy dull frozen pain of invalidation, of grief that’s not allowed to mourn because the loss is not recognized.

I would rather be out in the sunshine, digging my hands in dirt and planting seeds, I would rather be organizing my house or writing a book, I’d rather be washing dishes or doing production sewing or reading a mystery novel, than hanging out with this dull pain, which I can’t seem to express or give articulate voice to, which never resolves and never changes.

Actually, that’s not true.  It is changing, but so slowly over such a long period of time.  And it does periodically “resolve” into an outburst of tears, and then I feel better for a time.  I wonder about someone whose life was cut in two by an accident that left them crippled, if they also have periodic bouts with grief, if after a while they too have to struggle with invalidation: it happened a long time ago, you’ve accepted it, no use making a fuss now, pull yourself together.  But at least if you’re sitting in a wheelchair, no one, including yourself, can pretend that the accident didn’t happen.  And you don’t imagine that you could just run up a mountain if you would only use a little will power.

I’m describing the loss that Francis Weller describes, a loss that is difficult to grieve, because it’s hard to see the loss as a loss.  It’s seen as a defect.

Quotes from Francis Weller:“the places never touched by love” “These neglected places of soul live in utter despair. What we feel as defective, we also experience as loss. The proper response to any loss is grief, but we cannot grieve for something that we feel is outside the circle of worth.”  “We anticipated a certain quality of welcome, engagement, touch, reflection … communal rituals of celebration, grief and healing that kept us in connection with the sacred. The absence of these requirements haunts us… ”

It’s sort of scary how well this describes how I’m feeling right now. Struggling with the pain in my knee that does seem to be getting better, but so slowly. I see that I’m imagining I “could just run up a mountain if I would just use a little will power.”  I think I must be minimizing what I’m up against: early trauma triggered by being too much alone, plus a lot of dysfunctional learnings from my parents.

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