On Grief and Love / by Rachel Nordgren

Grief is the last act of love we can give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.

Grieving the loss of someone you love is, in its own way, honoring that person and the part that they played in your life. It is saying that they mattered, that you will miss them and that they deserve to be missed, that the loss is worthy of being felt fully.

In many ways, grief is also the inverted reflection of love. For the heights of love, there are the depths of grief. For every elated feeling of love that cannot be put into words, there is an equal and opposite feeling of grief that defies language, too. Love and grief are two sides of the same coin. Grief and love the dual halves of an elliptical orbit; as far as you travel on one, surely you will travel on the other.

Some dear friends of ours had their first child just a few months ago, and I brought them a meal soon after they got back from the hospital. In theory it was going to be a home cooked meal, but it was also a week before Hans and I were leaving for Europe, so I ended up sending Emma a text that said, “I'm admitting my limits and a home cooked meal just isn't in the cards, but takeout totally is! What sounds good?” and showed up with Chinese food later that night.

Sidenote: Food seems to be the answer to both immense joy and immense sorrow, you know? Shauna Niequist says it so perfectly in her book Bread and Wine, “Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don't know what to say, when there are no words to say.” Food is one of the most tangible ways we can show love to our people, in good times and bad.

I was snuggled into their couch, with their tiny sweet daughter Evie asleep on my chest, listening as my friends Emma and Jonathan told the story of Evie’s birth. Through an insane series of events, Evie spent her first night earth-side with Emma’s husband Jonathan, while Emma was in the ICU in a separate building. Jonathan stayed up all night with his tiny newborn daughter in his arms, solely responsible for her well-being.

Jonathan told me how his good friend Zach stayed up with him, mostly in silence, because no words could encapsulate the intense love and tenderness and gratitude…the sheer sanctity…of that night. He struggled to put it into words, and in an upside down sort of way, I understood why.

When a human being enters this world, the experience is holy and heavy and too much for words.

When a human being leaves this world, the experience is holy and heavy and too much for words.

There’s a reason that there are so many love poems and songs in existence; for eons, people have been desperately trying to capture the experience of love and fit it into kernings and serifs.

There’s also a reason that hardly anyone knows what to say when they hear someone has died; the experience of grief and loss is so deeply profound and painful that any words seem wholly inadequate.

Grief is, however painful, an act of love. When I gave myself permission to fully feel the grief of losing my Mother, I was also giving myself space to acknowledge and honor the deep love I have for her and the pain of losing all the love we had yet to share. 

Grieving said that the love mattered.

They say you know it ain't easy
I wouldn't want it to be
Cause ease is for the shallow
But we were from the deep

I don't want no distractions
Don't try to please me for one day
You are worth the joy, my love,
you are worth the pain

- Johnnyswim, Let It Matter