Tuesday, 18 June 2013

the madness of grief


The Light Between Oceans
M L Stedman

I loved this book and I think you will too. It is an accomplished debut novel which has had excellent reviews but I stumbled across it accidentally through an Amazon recommendation. M L Stedman writes of a remote coastal town in Australia and a sequence of events which will affect everyone in the town. The novel is tightly plotted but the writing is so assured that the story moves effortlessly from the opening pages, developing the characters and building the community that they live in.

This is not a book blog and I have no intention of analysing the novel because to do so will spoil the elegant way in which the plot unfolds. However, the basis of the story is grief and particularly the loss of a child which I would like to comment on. Our first daughter, Grace, would have been 25 this week and reading the book brought back memories of the early days of our bereavement, the sense of being completely adrift in a world which made no sense.

Every year as we remember Grace I wonder what she would have become. In my mind she has gone through school and on to university, now at the age of 25 she would have graduated and started her adult life. At the age of 25 I was married and so I imagine that for her too. I cannot really know the person that she would have become or the life that she would have lived but I try to hold onto my sense of who she might have been as a way of remembering her.

I have called this post 'the madness of grief' because in my experience you feel incapable of controlling the intensity of your emotions and that can feel like madness. In retrospect, I wonder if bereavement strips off the protective veneer that we each create to deal with the world we live in, leaving behind the person that you really are, so that it is not madness but humanity that is exposed. It takes courage to face the world exposing our grief and it is the limits of that courage M L Stedman explores so thoughtfully. I look forward to her next novel.

*****

Thank you so much  for your kind and thoughtful comments.
Alicex

27 comments:

  1. My words are inadequate, yours on the other hand, are so poignant. The right novel for the moment can be so helpful and your beautiful post today has been the same.
    We hold you in our hearts from across the world.

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  2. Spookily enough it was just recommended in our Facebook book group so I have bought it.

    And this post is exquisite andI send my love to you.

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  3. My dear friend lost her young son just before his 5th birthday (in 1986 to a drunk driver at 10 in the morning) and we still remember and think what he would be like. My stepson is the age he would have been so the comparison is ever present. My own son was born just 5 months later and I will always remember her holding him in her arms and the tears falling on his face.
    The loss of a child is one of life's deepest tragedies. Thank you for sharing this with us and I will read the book.
    xx

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  4. Oh, Alice.
    I have no words.

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  5. Memory Eternal and my love.

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  6. Dear Alice. I have no words.

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  7. Oh Alice. As usual you have some lovely words for a terribly difficult subject. Sending love and hugs.

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  8. If the book is even half as good as your words written above I shall enjoy it immensely. My heart goes out to you.

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  9. beautiful,dear, dear Alice.

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  10. Lis in Missouri USAJune 18, 2013

    I always feel a little torn about reading these subjects - they remind me of things like moths to flames. We try so hard to be brave and strong - bearing the losses, be it parent, child or friend. And yet . . . and yet. There is a comfort in the familiarity of the emotions described. The sense of "Yes. I know these feelings. Yes. You understand." Perhaps this raw place with the exposed nerve endings IS our humanity - but I think it is the veneer that filters that into compassion and allows us to touch others souls without bursting into flame. That can be our humanity too, I guess. It's how we are able to hug.

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  11. Tomorrow will be year from when my husband died.I hesitate to call it The Anniversary, as that always sounds a bit too jolly. You may recall that I commented once before,something along the lines of making the most of the precious time we have with loved ones and you wrote a very sensitive post about the range of subjects that you blog covers. Now I understand better where your wise words come from x

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  12. Thank you for your deeply lovely post, Alice. I have been thinking and thinking about your words on grief stripping the veneer and revealing one's humanity. You have said it so perfectly. I think and write about educating children for and during loss and mourning. Your words remind me of Judith Butler's theorizing about war and loss, and of Drew Gilpin Faust's work, too. Butler claims that to mourn successfully, individuals and communities must work actively to sustain vulnerability (I argue rather than "getting over it" or hurrying toward "closure"), for it remains central to our humanity. “To foreclose that vulnerability, to banish it, to make ourselves secure at the expense of every other human consideration is to eradicate one of the most important resources from which we must...find our way.”

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  13. Lovely words. I (thank goodness) cannot imagine the pain of losing a child but have stumbled across a number of blogs in the last week or so that touch on the pain and grief. My heart goes out to you, and I squeeze my boy just that bit tighter at bedtime x

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  14. (((Alice)))

    I can't speak.

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  15. Normally I lurk. Today you touched several nerves, which in spite of my carefully fashioned veneer, are still a little raw once exposed. I have been blessed to have an almost 25 year old- 2 weeks to go. I also still have my second born, but we came so close to losing him age 9.......that memory fades but rarely recedes as I look at him with pride and emotion. A young man that I had the privilege of looking after through my job( I am a Year Head in a school), decided that with two parts of one IGCSE to go that enough was enough and made to the decision to leave without explanation. He left his family no words but 10 A* grades. I am not his mother but I feel some of her loss- we all miss him but in truth, only you really understand how she feels. You write so beautifully. Thank you.

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  16. Hugs from me to you Alice. You have a magic way with words x

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  17. Oh, Alice -- I can't even imagine, But I send my love --

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  18. We can none of us really turn our backs on death, but we usually only glance briefly over our shoulder at it and recoil. Sometimes we are made to look it full in the face. Then we find what we are made of. x

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  19. You never forget how old they would be; and that's the way they grow older with you. I like the idea that it is not madness, but a kind of truthful humanity that is exposed by grief - that makes so much sense to me. Sending you much love and a big hug xxx

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  20. I just finished reading this wonderful book. I cried all the way through it and now your lovely words have made me cry again. Your writing has a simple honesty that speaks right to the heart. Sending you love, xx

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  21. sending you much love Alice x

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  22. dear alice.
    I am somewhat silenced by your words. I have ordered this book from the library.
    thinking of you over here on the west coast.

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  23. I am late to comment as always (and hopeless about doing so at all these days).

    We lost a much loved niece when she was very small and could only watch helplessly as that madness of grief you describe descended upon my brother and sister in law. The phrase that I have always used is that their grief stripped them bare, and their courage in the face of that was humbling and heartbreaking. I am so sorry to read, so sad, that you and yours, dear Alice, have lived that too.

    You're all in my thoughts x

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Thank you! I love reading your comments and even though I don't always have time to reply I am really grateful to every one who joins in the conversation.