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“a person of sorrows, acquainted with grief”

November 11, 2011

"a person of sorrows, acquainted with grief."My grandfather died at sixty nine, after a life filled with farming, ranching, and carpentering on the side.  My great grandmother, Nora, was still living and ninety years old.  She had lost her oldest grandson, and less than two years later, her husband.  She had been a widow for thirty five years.  I was devastated by my grandfather’s death.  But, I guess I thought my great grandmother had seen so much loss and grief in her ninety years, that it was different for her.  Maybe she had gained immunity from loss.  And then she was in front of his casket, weeping and repeating, “My baby, oh, my baby”, a mantra that captured all she had lost.  In that moment I knew there was no age limit, no statute of limitations, no point at which losing your child felt less, rather than more.

John Claypool wrote Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, following the death of his ten year old daughter from acute leukemia.  He reminds us that we are all “a person of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”, for grief is ours whenever we lose something we value.  Claypool identifies loss and grief , not as isolated events, but as an integral part of our life journey.

“Learning to handle these in a healthy way–learning how to lose, so to speak–is one of life’s most important challenges.  It can hardly be begun too soon.”

He acknowledges our attempts to protect our children from grief, while pointing out that…

“as soon as a child is old enough to love something that can be lost, that one is a candidate to become ‘a person of sorrows, acquainted with grief.’  Very few get very far without experiencing loss in some way.

“The truth is–for every one of us–that there is no way to avoid the trauma of loss if we love even a little.  This is what makes the task of learning to handle grief so important.”

I think my great grandmother had spent her life “learning to lose”.  She was well acquainted with grief.  I watched her handle loss by returning to life, from my earliest memories until her own death at ninety-two.  I also watched her step into the painful presence of loss when my grandfather died.

I have not had to find life after the death of a child.  Having stood by as friends entered this dark night of the soul, I have asked myself the question a colleague of John Claypool asked.  “Those of us who have not been there wonder what it is like out there in the Darkness.  Can you tell us?”  Claypool’s response was both profound and ambiguous.  “Yes and no.”  Perhaps the path to learning to handle grief begins with the courage to start the conversation.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2011 7:23 am

    So true…your child is always your child no matter the age, and when that child dies it is always the death of your baby. Thank you for sharing. I had not read Claypool’s book…I will look it up.

    • November 15, 2011 11:44 pm

      Thank you, Rebecca, for being one of the courageous parents who patiently teaches the rest of us about the journey of losing a child. John Claypool’s book was originally published in the 70′s. It was published a second time by a different publisher more recently. When I first read it, I was struck by his candor. The fact that he spoke from his own experience gave his words power.

  2. November 14, 2011 9:56 pm

    John Claypool’s “Tracks of a Fellow Struggler,” and “Mourning Into Dancing” by Walter Wangerin, Jr. are worth reading for those who have experienced loss.

  3. December 9, 2011 12:16 am

    Your blog has definitely inspired me to really re think the way I blog. Just saying thanks for your hard work.

    • December 10, 2011 5:57 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. It has been nice to exchange ideas and encouragement with fellow bloggers.

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