by Romilda Wilder
This article is included in Legacy for two reasons. First, it complements A
Grief Observed. Second, it is a refreshing contrast to the extreme position of owners of the Lewis literary estate and their employees.
In cleaning my room I found many, many things … more than half of which
I’m discarding … either throwing away or giving away. It has been a
healthy (though a pain in the back) thing to do. I’ve enjoyed “letting go”
of so many things.
I came across this little piece I wrote for a forum on aging given at my
church in 1991. At the time I was Assistant Mgr. for Resident Services at a
local retirement home, and was one of several panelists. My topic was
We’ve all seen the comic strip of Linus and his security blanket … the
pitiful pictures of the blanket in the dryer while Linus sits … watching
… waiting for it to once again be in his hands. I’m sure Linus couldn’t
give you all the reasons why his blanket is important to him, and what I
find so wonderful is that he doesn’t have to. Children are usually allowed
to have what seem to be unreasonable needs and fears … and they’re
usually allowed to express them. A healthy small child will scream or cry
if you take away what matters to him.
The difficulty comes later … when we have absorbed all the unwritten laws
of our culture that tell us as adults we really ought to be reasonable
about our needs and fears and we ought not to scream and cry when we lose
something. Because of the burying of feelings, many of us find ourselves
not only without a way to show our grief, but also without the ability to
recognize the losses.
We have memorial services when someone dies, a gathering for rituals which
heal more than we could guess, but we have no cathartic rituals to mourn
the loss of jobs, homes, or relationships … much less the losses that
come with age. There is no gathering of loved ones to mourn with you your
inability to run up the stairs, no hymn of comfort for you when you give up
your car and driver’s license. If your beloved is dying you might get extra
hugs of support from your friends, but who weeps with you when you can no
longer write letters or weed your garden.
I see brave people daily – people who courageously graduate from a cane to
a walker, who struggle to hear a simple conversation, who shyly ask a clerk
to double bag their purchases so that nobody will be able to read through
the thin plastic those reassuring names: Depends, Attends, or Serenity.
There is no rite of passage when you’re losing control of your bladder, but
its a loss and people grieve it, one way or another.
After my father died I found myself brushing my teeth longer and more
thoroughly than I ever had. For weeks I wondered what was behind this
“ritual” I was performing each morning. Sometimes it made me late to work.
I was almost ready to call a shrink when I realized what was happening.
This was something over which I had complete control. I had no control over
my father’s death. I had no control over all the feelings surrounding his
death, but I did have control over how I brushed my teeth. Now when I find
myelf brushing my teeth longer than usual, I listen … to the things
inside of me … to hear what it is I feel I’ve lost control of.
A few years ago I found a card which said: THERE HAVE BEEN NO DRAGONS IN MY
LIFE, ONLY SMALL SPIDERS AND STEPPING IN GUM …. I COULD HAVE COPED WITH
It seems to me it is the small losses, the daily blows, which wear us down.
There don’t seem to be appropriate or acceptable way to grieve those
We Americans take great prpide in our Melting Pot mentality, but in melting
down the unique rituals, ceremonies, and rites of passage, we have robbed
ourselves of healthy release and relief.
Too many people are hurting from losses which we don’t know how to confirm,
affirm, or handle. Maybe it is time for us to reinvent the wheel… time to
gather ourselves together to share and grieve these losses. Maybe it’s time
to pour some of the melted rituals into new and meaningful molds … molds
of acceptable and healing ways to express the feelings we’ve so carefully
denied or controlled. Whether we actually do this alone or in groups, it is
important to find ways of healing those gashes in our hearts and psyche
where something has been taken away from us…. where we’ve lost what once
was so much a part of the person we considered ourselves to be.
Copylefted by Rom Wilder – 1991
This piece of writing is copylefted. Please feel free to share it with
anyone you wish as long as this “copyleft” is left on it and as long as it
is not sold or used to make money in any way.