We have an emotional field, generated by what goes on inside. Much like a gravity field, the space-time field, it distorts in the presence of other bodies. The degree of distortion is relative to the size of their presence in your life, which can explain why someone we never met can be the cause of genuine grief when they’re gone. That well created in the field you project is a result of how much value you put on their place in your life.
The orbits thus created shift and jostle for equilibrium. When one disappears…
Back in the Age of Burgeoning Awareness (the Sixties through the Nineties) many introspection disciplines advised us to leave nothing unsaid. Finish your business, lest the chance vanish in a puff of mortality. Having undergone a degree of this in an attempt to find handles on various dilemmas, I took this one to heart. The first time its utility was tested, I fell apart at the seams. I did not feel okay, even while being relieved that the suffering of my departed friend was over. It’s not so much that the advice was wrong, but they say nothing very useful about what comes of it. Judging the success of something by an absence is frankly impossible.
People die. They leave a space in our lives they once occupied and that emptied space must be dealt with, because it exerts a pull on us and now that mass is gone. Adjustments must be made. The reassessments of going on with a new relation to our living ecology is required and you simply cannot do that in advance. Those spaces they occupied in your life supplied stabilizing effects. We relied on them to be there for navigation. Remove one and we have to find a new stability.
That is even before the emotions unleashed by loss come to the fore.
Not every loss that causes grief is a necessarily close or even active relationship. The weight of their importance in your life is not always of their doing.
But when it is, when it is mutual, when it goes both ways, that sudden absence can be seismic.
We are taught to assign reasons to things, especially important things. Why this, why that. We reduce to detail, catalogue, justify. We want to seem reasonable and, often, unfazed, especially by things which by their nature unhinge us. We want to understand, of course, but also we want to appear to understand, for, among other reasons, those around us who need us to understand so they might anticipate understanding themselves. We start negotiating with the universe to somehow let us be all right with what was never in our power to do anything about.
Someone dies. Their position in our ecology is suddenly empty. Memory remains, of course, and those around who who also had them in their fields remind us, but there is now a hole where once a person was, someone who affected us, influenced us, drew us along pathways in a complex web of tangled suasion along with others, who they also drew along, and by so doing added to the total set of forces molding our journey through life. Gone, that complexity must readjust, find new equilibrium. That unbalancing creates a sense of powerlessness. It hurts. Just by its absence.
Things will come back into equilibrium. Not the same kind and the difference may linger to haunt us with a sense of not quite right. And it will happen again. And again.
Trying to pretend nothing is changed or that you were all right with the loss or any of a dozen other sophistries to avoid the ache…it only hurts in a different way, but it doesn’t ever not hurt.
My father died on May 19th. These are some thoughts I had in the aftermath. He isn’t there anymore. It feels off. I miss him.