How to grieve our nation’s loss in Boston, a lesson from nature.

Grief is the price we pay for our commitment. Without it love would not be possible nor would sorrow.

I am watching my countrymen suffer from violence as we watch the deep damage done from two explosions at the Boston Marathon.  I would say senseless violence but all violence lacks logic or sense. 

It hurts to watch. Even though I am not physically in Boston those are my streets.  They are the first streets in our nation, Paul Revere is buried nearby, our collective beginnings started there.  We learned our nations poems and lore all set against the backdrop of Boston.  A tragedy in Boston is a tragedy around us and in us. Our personal history is so interwoven in the history of this city that watching the bombs explode near the finish line of our nation’s most famous foot race felt like an explosion in our childhood memories–“One if by land, two if by sea” now has tragic overtones as I try to remember the whole poem.

To hear how the bombs were loaded with glass and bb’s and nails aimed at maiming and harming and that those things cut their way through eight year old Martin who died in the bombings and who asked us not to hurt each other just a year before in a homemade sign only re-enforces our anguish. How can we do anything but grieve? What should that grief look like?

I am thinking perhaps my best approach is to dive deeply in to the center of grief. Perhaps we need to allow it, not to say, it’s not about me.  The fact is it is about all of us. Our people were hurt, our child killed, our American child.  If we don’t allow grief perhaps it will transform to something worse like fear or anger.  Fear will never take us to the place of love so strong it leaves no room for violence.

So I am suggesting we embrace the grief. Grief is an adaptation so many species express openly.  Elephants are notorious in their grief and so are our nearest relatives, gorillas.  They participate in rituals, they hold each other in sorrow.  Our little hens taught me about grief when we lost one of our chicks recently.  They first brought her food, then in discovering she would not return they buried her and stood around her making the clicking noise they reserve for their deepest relationships.  For two days following they hung their wings at their sides and moved slowly, sometimes stopping at the place where she died laying there entirely still. They did not chase grief away or pretend not to feel it. They allowed their grief and comforted each other with it knowing that the loss of one was a loss to all.

Scientists say its unclear how this adaptation of grief found in so many species helps us to survive in the evolutionary process but I’m thinking it is the essence of what makes us confirm our love and recommit to it at the same time. It moves us forward to love again.

So we end where we began. Grief is the price we pay for our commitment. Without it love would not be possible. 

 

 

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