Good Grief: On Death, Mourning, And Unpredictability

Cynthia Haven at The Book Haven:

Grief is painful. We all know that. But Is there a “good grief”? Eminent essayist and man of letters Joseph Epstein discusses grief, theoretically and from personal experience, including the devastating loss of his son by opioid overdose, as well as departed relatives and friends in his essay, “Good Grief” in Commentary. Like him, I haven’t experienced the legendary “five states of grief,” which I see as an attempt to organize and manage grief, which is by its nature tormenting, chaotic, unpredictable.

Socrates argued that we should keep death foremost in our minds, and that our inevitable deaths will goad us to live better lives. “But no one has told us how to deal with the deaths of those we love or found important to our own lives. Or at least no one has done so convincingly,” he writes. A few excerpts:

Like death itself, grief is too manifold; it comes in too many forms to be satisfactorily captured by philosophy or psychology. How does one grieve a slow death by, say, cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s; a quick death by heart attack, stroke, choking on food, car accident; death at the hands of a criminal, which in our day is often a random death; death at a person’s own hands by suicide; death in old age, middle age, childhood; death in war; yes, death by medicine tragically misapplied. Grief can take the form of anger, even rage, deep sorrow, confusion, relief; it can be long-lived, short-term, almost but never quite successfully avoided. The nature of grief is quite as highly variegated as its causes.

more here.