Love has many meanings, loss has only one: grief. We grieve for what we have lost. Today, we are suffering a pandemic of loss. Every one of us is mourning the death of someone we knew, loved, or admired. Loss is in the ethers around us. In the heart-wrenching tragedies in the news and on television, in the suffering of friends and families, in the aching desire for a return to normalcy. But loss has become the new normal, an ongoing sorrow that refuses to go away.
When someone we love dies, we can tend to feel guilty. We wonder what we could have done to prolong their life or prevent their death. Or said what we wanted to say to them before they passed away. I was painfully aware of the collective guilt of friends and family at the funeral of my son in Los Angeles after he committed suicide in 1997. When I spoke, I said we shouldn’t feel guilty. But I felt the pain of guilt most of all. I had looked after him in his final days as we battled his schizophrenia. How could I not feel guilty at the time? With the passing of years, I forgave myself. I knew I had done everything I could to save him. The guilt receded, the pain lessened, but his loss still scars my soul. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. But I have learnt to live with it.
All of us have to find ways of coping with suffering and death in this pandemic. It isn’t easy, even in normal times. Mourning is natural and must be given its time. We need to express our grief, accept our sadness, and share it with others. Blame and anger may follow, too. Life, said the Buddha, is full of suffering. But it shouldn’t run our lives. We have jobs to do, families to raise, dreams to fulfill. ‘Life is like a grindstone,’ I read somewhere.
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