It is interesting to me that we are so captivated by what is essentially a capitalistic discourse of grieving. Listen to the terms we use. We should finish unfinished business. We need to seek closure. We ought to withdraw emotional energy from the one who has died in order to invest it into other relationships. What I would say in response to all of this is that business may be finished but relationships rarely are. And we usually don’t seek closure. Closure is for bank accounts, not for love accounts. Those remain open.
Love is not like money. It is not available in limited supply. It is potentially boundless, so the more open we remain to continuing loving relationships with those who are not physcially present, the more love we have available to give to contemporary relationships with those who are living. The notion of withdrawing energy as if it were just so much emotional capital that can be reallocated to another higher-interest-bearing account strikes me as bizarre.
Neimeyer as quoted in Their Finest Hour by Kottler and Carlson
I’ve been reading a book where therapists speak of their finest hour of therapy. I found this quote in a chapter that describes Robert A. Neimeyer’s work with a woman who was struggling in a new city with new roles. What he found was that as he helped her through therapy, reconnect with her father who had died shortly before her move, she improved. As she reminded herself of her father, who he was, his values, and how he would have helped her with the adjustment, she found strength and encouragement to approach the new situations with assertiveness and energy, creating a life for herself that energized her.
I love the idea of continuing to love dear ones who have died, and how that helps us live in a vital way with those who still surround us. It reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books of all time…one that I think is of just as much value to adults as children.
The idea of having a boundless supply of love is something that many mothers can understand. After loving a first child, it can be a daunting experience to be expecting a second, with wondering, “How could I possibly love another child when my heart is so very very fully of love for the one I hold and cuddle?” In the book, I Love You the Purplest, Barbara Josse write a book where a mother explains to her children how she loves them:
Two young brothers head out with their mother in a rowboat for an evening of fishing. They ask her to tell them who is better at digging worms, rowing, and catching fish, and later, back in their cabin at bedtime, they ask whom she loves the best. With each answer the caring mother assures both boys that they are… loved. “I love you the bluest” she tells thoughtful, methodical Julian, “the color of a cave…splash of a waterfall…hush of a whisper.” To peripatetic, energetic Max, she says, “I love you the reddest…the color of sky before it blazes into night.” The final double-page spread, illustrating their cabin at night, is awash with purples; and so, she loves both “the purplest.”
I revel in the idea (and it makes so much sense) that we love different people differently. The people we love can be alive and with us, far away from us, or even passed on to the other side. We can love each in a unique way, drawing strength, wisdom, patience, joy, and love from the relationship in a way that makes one rich.
Go love the people (all of them, dead or alive) in your world today!