Alec. Alec. Alec. I love to hear his name. I think I always will. Sometimes people are afraid to bring up the deceased for fear of inadvertently triggering a flood of tears and/or emotion on the part of the griever. I can say that for me hearing Alec’s name causes quite an opposite reaction; it makes me happy. You might say this is because a year has passed and I am in a different place in the landscape of my grief. While this is demonstrably true, things were no different in this regard early on. Then, my tears were almost constant; even when I was not crying on the outside, I was bawling on the inside. Talking about Alec helped. It did not make the pain worse. At that time there was nothing that could have made the pain worse for me, honestly. His going, his dying, was as bad as that was going to get.
Far worse is when people do not mention the deceased, as if they never existed. It almost compounds the loss in that sense. Not only is the loved one’s physical presence gone, but their representation in the world of words is gone as well. Where did they go? Not being able to speak of the loved one does two things simultaneously. It foments the sense of confusion that often accompanies a profound loss, because talking is an important part of processing, and eventually healing. At the same time, the aggressive eradication of the loved one from the shared realm of conversation can bury the loss too quickly, a superficial covering over that will not last. In other words, efforts to spare the griever pain by not mentioning the loved one’s name (let alone venturing deeper into meaningful discourse) can have the opposite effect.
With regard to the well-intentioned desire to avoid reminding the griever of his or her loss by mentioning the deceased, well, I only have one thing to say about that: they don’t need reminding. What I mean is the loss is likely always on their mind, especially in the early stages, sometimes front and center, sometimes lingering toward the back, sometimes scurrying back and forth in the wings, but trust me, you are not making them remember something they had forgotten. So try it. If it is the wrong time, they will let you know by changing the subject…or hey, maybe dissolving into tears! If you try this and that happens, I’m sorry! I can only speak from my own (somewhat unique, somewhat universal) experience and I know that I cried *all the damn time* but the ferocity of the outbursts and intensity of the breakdowns really had nothing to do with hearing or not hearing his name. The few times I did feel better for a moment were after talking about it, about him, I can tell you that. But everyone is different. I might be really weird in this regard!
Talking about absent loved ones is a way to keep them close, to keep them with us always. Words can be bridges. They can even be conduits. Sometimes when I am writing I almost feel Alec running through me, buzzing in my fingers, over the keys, and onto the screen. It’s pretty neat. Words are powerful. Names most of all. And one is like the beauty and promise and inspiration of all my favorite songs melted and poured into two little syllables: