Wednesday, February 08, 2006


In the course of the last treinta dias (my Spanish kicking in..oh so suddenly and deliberately!) I have heard of some close human beings passing on. I have experienced the grief of those that were left behind to deal with the loss. I have cried, I have mourned, I have shared my own loss and I have held hands with the bereaved for whatever it is worth. The language of grief is universal and for the most part shared.

An esoteric me would feel that as liminal beings each stage of life is rife with the lurking unreal happenings. Van Gennep’s “Rites of passage” helped me understand life’s transitions.
However, as a human being, going through the motions of life, the sudden and often hostile change that death imposes is very personal and no amount of rituals seem to appear as catharsis. Personal crisis is located in emotionally charged environments and that is what the rituals seem to want to help structure. I feel that they seem to reinforce the prevalent and/or dominant religious values.

But do I need to be a religious person to grieve? In normal circumstances I would keep blind faith in religion at bay. I have no issue with religion and have for the most part respect the power it has over human conscience - sometimes even more than education can ever think of permeating. So even when we are aware that those who have left us are not there anymore physically, we pretend they are still around and that they are unhappy until and unless the post liminal ceremonies are completed that would release them into the final state of being and allow the grieving out of their polluting state of existence into a normal sacred living.
Van Gennep has explained that the monotony and rigor that rituals offer (I often use “ritualistic” to connote monotony!) get people into a state that gradually weans them away from their state of being. In that case factory workers at conveyor belts who we have studied and know of as being the most alienated should be able to come out of that situation soon so as to be able to live better lives. But that does not happen. I guess that’s too simplistic a comparison.

Without saying one way or the other, let me say that grieving with people and feeling heard and understood has a very calming effect. Its a different time and easing into that phase means that a phase is left behind too. I thank those who are able to find in themselves to be there when they are needed the most and help breach the continuity and break it up at the same time. Memories are a big part of us and no routine can change that. And they are the ones I wish to celebrate.