Music to my ears.

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:


Filed under Grief and loss

9 responses to “Music to my ears.

  1. kristine

    awww! are these both recent pics? funny that just 2 days ago i told you about meeting an alex – and you were like – what? alec? : ) it is a sweet name! but i’m glad not to have met another alec! lots of love to you!

  2. Yup, both recent. The clay thing as you know is right outside my front door and the last one was at Cathedral. Teagan was just off-camera…not eating sand!! 😉

  3. April

    I love this. So true. My heart lights up when I hear Maggie and Jamine’s names. Each sentence like a small tribute to these wonderful souls. Hearing/speaking their names keeps them alive, closer.

  4. Rich

    Talking about, hearing about, thinking about any living being on this planet that was a part of our life keeps them alive in our hearts and minds and keeps us a part of them and them a part of us!!

  5. I’m the exact opposite – I spoke of Casey to a co-worker a couple of weeks ago & I started crying. Casey died on January 10, 1990. At the time that I lost him, a close friend (not any longer) said, “he was just a cat, get over it.” You can imagine just how that made me feel. I shut down about the losses of my animals after that. In my experience, most people just didn’t understand. I do, however, have more friends now that do understand because they’ve been through it and their animals were family/friends and not simply a possession or responsibility.

    You have been wonderful to share with all of us the beautiful relationship between you and Alec. You have opened your heart not only to Alec but to each of us. You’ve allowed us to share your joy and your grief in a remarkably honest and open way. You & Alec have touched our lives in such a special way. And, now getting to know Teagan and see that relationship grow and you to experience joy again is marvelous. THANK YOU!

    • Connie, I am so sad to hear your formerly close friend responded like that! I am so lucky to have several wonderful friends and co-workers in my life who truly get it (although not everyone, believe me!). I realize it is not like this for everyone and that makes me so sad. But I do think things are changing, however slowly, and it sounds like that has been your experience too. I appreciate your kind words about opening my heart to people – it has been scary at times!! But it also has connected me with a little virtual community which has been very supportive and understanding (people like you – so THANK YOU :))

  6. Pingback: Sharing our Stories | Animal Legal Defense Fund

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