All posts tagged: grief features

Spectacles of death

Reflections on motherhood and weapons systems, public death in Syria, and the spectacle of dying in a Greek hospital

Grief elves

I have carried grief in my bones for so many years that I do not notice its weight unless it becomes acute. I do not hear its noise unless it shouts at me.

Accompaniment

I know that Easter and fathers and pre-exam jitters and saudade layer atop each other. I know that grief sneaks up on you when you are trying to pack ‘the canon’ into your head (and I know enough about feminist inquiry to question what counts as the canon, to know it has earned the quotes around it). I know how to tell grief apart by its taste. This is not the cutting, surprise grief, the kind that has made you nauseous before. It is the sweet, quiet accompaniment.

Healing and failing expectations of sunniness

This is the second post in a series of reflections on grief, inspired by recent loss, injury, and an abundance of pain. Part I is available here. “I’m sure you are starting to feel better… aren’t you?” “Look at you! You are getting so good on your crutches!” “Are you… feeling happier yet?” Forty days after the death of a loved one in Greece, we conduct a service called μνημόσυνο — a ‘mnemosyne’. In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne was a titaness who was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus, quite literally the daughter of Earth and Sky. At a mnemosyne, we remember the person we lost and begin to let go of a layer of the grief. In traditional circles, mourners wear black until that first mnemosyne, 40 days after the loss. For some, that is the permissible return of color into life. For others, particularly in rural areas, it is not unusual to wear black and keep the grieving rituals for a full year. Well-versed in the traditions of my homeland as I may be, …

When grief becomes the teacher

My world is rife with loss right now. From a broken foot and ankle to a family emergency to the memories of grief revisited, I am swimming in pain.  In no particular order — because that is what grief does to me, it disrupts order and my capacity for it — here are some of the lessons that have emerged from the past month, written with the awareness that there may not be lessons at all in these processes, with the acknowledgment that perhaps we look for lessons so we can hold on to our faith that there is something to be learned, something salvageable to all this. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” claims Elizabeth Bishop in her famous poem One Art. What she quietly neglects to share is that there are no prizes for the mastery of grief and loss. I once heard someone describe Joan Didion, one of my favorite authors, as “the high priestess of grief.” I remember thinking to myself, “what a dubious title! Would anyone really want that ‘honor?’” …

Boston bombings and the hierarchy of suffering

When I was an undergraduate, some of my peers engaged in a sport that can only be described as competitive under-sleeping. “I only slept five hours last night,” one would say. “Oh! You must be so well-rested. I slept for two hours.” “One hour and twenty minutes!” “I slept negative 17 minutes last night.” Everything was an arms race: Who studied the most and who studied the least? Who slept the most and the least? How long could one go without food or a bathroom break? Depending on whom you asked, the extremes of these spectrums would be points of pride. Boston became the closest point I would recognize as home on a United States map. Shortly after the completion of my studies, I left the US to work in conflict and post-conflict areas with women affected by war. Five years after that first graduation, I have returned to Boston to make it a home anew — to make it a site of learning, growth, and community. I am no stranger to violence. I have …

Surprise grief

He loved balconies. Before glaucoma struck, he would solve equations on napkins in his favorite chair overlooking the city. Outdoor lunches still taste like factoredquadratics to me. One can, apparently, inherit a love of patios. My International Baccalaureate exams smelled like sunscreen and sounded like pinecones crackling in the heat. So did the SATs and the GREs and every subsequent acronym tied to rites of passage. I associate balconies and porches and patios with squinting and deep learning, with note-taking and striving, and with grief for a fatherly presence that is long gone. It is hardly surprising, then, that when an Uncommon email landed in my inbox from Lisa, extolling the “magical, unexplainable power of the front porch,” it felt like the universe winking at me — and with it, all my past selves, all the grief pulling me in. There is no badge of honor to mastering grief, nor is there a committee of admissions that will verify that everything you learned on porches and patios about it suffices to welcome you into the …

Kindling

  “They” say there are certain things a Greek woman “should” be able to do. You know, “before she gets married.” Make good Greek coffee [or, as it is more commonly known, Turkish coffee, but do not say that if your grandmother is listening]. Cook the perfect pastitsio. *Insert other quite gendered expectations here.* My father had a slightly different idea about the capabilities his daughter should develop. He deemed it essential that I know how to roast lamb on a spit, lest I ever go without a Greek Easter in any corner of the world. He also thought his girl should know how to get the fireplace running, starting at age 10. I watched him roll up newspapers for kindling, strategically placing them between the bigger pieces of wood. I giggled as he blew air into the fireplace. I heard it howl. Towards the end of his life, my father lost his vision to complications arising from glaucoma. He had only a foggy impression of the woman I was slowly becoming. We could no …

November 17

[inspired by Kim, Dominique, and my father, always.] Decades ago “We are not armed. We are not armed. We are not armed. […] Brothers, brothers, brothers-soldiers, you will not raise your guns. You will not shoot to kill your brothers. [audible tanks rolling up to the gate] Brothers soldiers, brothers soldiers, how is this possible! How is it possible that you would shoot your brothers! How would you allow Greek blood to be spilled. [begins to recite Greek national anthem]” In the beginning of November 1973, a civil resistance movement gained momentum against the military junta that had ruled Greece since 1967. On November 14, 1973, students locked themselves in the Polytechnic University of Athens to protest against the censorship and restrictions of freedom and civil liberties that had occurred during the dictatorship. The students set up an independent radio station and began to broadcast non-violent messages of civil resistance. The clip translated above was the last broadcast before this happened: In the clip of the student begging soldiers not to fire, one can hear …

Parallel narratives of grief

I have been thinking about grief and, this time, I cannot credit Joan Didion. Believe me, I have tried to celebrate beautiful fall light and the exquisiteness of gummy candy in Jerusalem’s markets. I have tried to take a momentary breathing break from thinking about the paradoxes. I live above Burgers Bar and embrace privileged-world-problems like “my apartment smells like hamburgers.” I read New York Times articles like this, which epitomize privileged-world-problems, and then ponder the closest location of macarons or cupcakes. In the airiness of macarons, I find a bubble. A woman who has lived in the Middle East for a while told me that without the bubble, I will not survive. And yet, I cannot evade the big questions and it seems Jerusalem asks them continuously. I arrived here to find the country wrapped up in the story of Gilad Shalit. Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas militants when he was serving as an Israeli Defense Forces combat soldier in 2006. In October, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoner in exchange for Shalit’s return. The …