Reflections on Life, Love, Loss and Grief

This is one of my rollercoaster weeks as it includes son, Harry’s birthday (22), and my mother’s anniversary (1921-2009).

It has also been a week which has seen the horrific bombing in Manchester and a number of terrible tragedies here in Ireland.

I suppose it’s not surprising that I have found myself reflecting on all sorts of issues around life, love, loss and grief. The following are among the many thoughts that have been flitting around in my heart and mind:

#1. The fragility of life is mesmerising. While we need to be very aware of this fragility in order to make the most of every moment, it is something that dances around like sunlight playing with trees in a soft breeze.




#2. To love and be loved brings with it the risk/likelihood of having to deal with loss.

#3. Losses are not objectively categorisable in terms of their level of awfulness. To go down that road is to over-simplify what is a highly complex matter ~ and we need to be conscious that a whole host of factors come into play in terms of how losses are processed by different individuals and that one person may process losses in his/her life very differently.

#4. While there may be competitiveness in the cut and thrust of life ~ competitiveness has no place when it comes to grief and grieving.

#5. We need to recognise that there is no single best way to grieve or to deal with people who are grieving.

#6. We also need to be acutely aware that what may appear like the same loss in say a family context may well be dealt with very differently by the various members of the family. Remember that each family member is unique and has unique relationships with other members of the family.

#7. The extent to which we love someone does not necessarily equate with the grief we feel when they die. We may have a sense that a person has passed on a legacy of strength and that is something that can sustain us through what can appear on the outside to be an overwhelming loss.


Layers of Love


#8. It is impossible to know how anyone will react to the death of a loved one, no matter how expected or unexpected that death is.

#9. Memories of loved ones who have died live on in a host of different ways and cling to all the senses, especially touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.

#10. Memories can be extremely vivid and key moments may remain etched in one’s being for years and years and years.  Those key moments may well involve exchanges with people around the time of the death of a loved one as our senses may be very heightened as we seek to cope with what may seem like the overwhelming.

#11. Life is for living; life owes us nothing; we have no ‘entitlement’ to live to a great age.

#12. Love should be nurtured, treasured, celebrated and scattered to the winds as well as held close to the heart.

#13. The sharedness of life and love, lived to the full and with as few regrets as possible, are anchors that can sustain us through unthinkable losses and terrible tossings of grief.


The Birthday Boy!


Mothers and Fingers

I really came to see a myriad of connections between mothers and fingers this week when I managed to get a nasty abscess on the index finger of my right hand. I’ve been feeling absolutely lousy with it as the infectious ooze took hold and started to eat into my whole system.

Mother and Me
Mother and Me

The feverishness and pain, especially in the quiet of the night, made me long for my mother’s soothing voice, soft smile, quiet reciting of my favourite poems, loving touch, soft sponging of my brow as well as her urgings to at least try the bread ‘soldiers’ and beef tea that were her ‘invalid’ specials.

Motherhood and fingers are totally connected. That haunting moment when I first counted son Harry’s baby fingers and checked and double checked that there were ten ~ five on each hand. The wonderment at how they could be so, so tiny and so perfectly formed. His whole soft hand gripping just one of my fingers for comfort or to grab my attention.

Fingers Entwined

Even though I have yearned for Mother’s tenderness this week as I’ve fully grasped the role of the index finger in practically every activity of daily life, apart from my typing, I was glad that she didn’t have to endure the initial worry that the infection could get totally out of control.

There seems to come a time when you just have to grow up and spare the person who arguably loves you more unconditionally than anyone else ever can.

The week has also made me realise more forcefully than ever that the tiny baby fingers that I once held are now a strong man’s fingers.

But, as I think about that, I also recall Mother’s emphasis on how wounded soldiers in war want to feel their mother’s hands more than anyone else’s.