What is Grief?

“When you are about to die, you may not be very aware of your body.  You may experience some numbness, and yet you are caught in the idea that this body is you.  You are caught in the notion that the disintegration of this body is your own disintegration.  That is why you are fearful.  You are afraid you are becoming nothing.  The disintegration of the body cannot affect the dying person’s true nature.  You have to explain to him that he is life without limit.  This body is just a manifestation, like a cloud.  When a cloud is no longer a cloud, it is not lost.  It has not become nothing; it has transformed; it has become rain.  Therefore, we should not identify our self with our body.”

No Death, No Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh

I once heard about a young Irish mother who lost three children and a husband to influenza, all in the space of a month. The month was October, and when the last knot was tied on the last shroud, her tongue was tied with it, and she didn’t speak or leave the house all winter. Come spring, the town’s fiddler came to camp out under her window. He propped up a lean-to against the side of her house, filled it with a sheepskin bedroll and woolen blankets, and began to fiddle. He had played at her wedding, and he played those songs again. He knew her children’s cradle songs, and he played each one. He played sea shanties from the town where her father’s people lived, and tavern tunes he’d belted out over ale with her husband. He played shire songs from her mother’s country, ancient songs originally gifted to the people by faeries. Slowly, inside the house, she began to stir, then move, then cry, then scream, then … she began to talk. The fiddler untied her grief-stricken tongue with music: an invisible cure for an invisible problem. 

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