The changing perception of loss

15 Mar


I like to wander around old graveyards. Not in some macabre way (an unhealthy resurgence of my death-obsession),  I just find them fascinating, thought-provoking and strangely comforting.  To ponder how people lived, loved and died alongside their families, to witness how their remains have married with the earth, weeds growing round and into and under the headstones, destroying yet throwing forth life.

In the quiet and the stillness I always feel like an intruder, an interloper on past griefs.  Memories and emotions once so raw now mere whispers on the morning air,  dissipated and unnoticed but now momentarily disturbed by the inquisitive trespass of a stranger.

Thought-provoking and chastening that things once so important should have been brought to this.  And yet such a strangely reassuring display of the natural passing of time.

Do events and feelings and lives become irrelevant when there is noone left to remember them? Does it even matter?


The other day as I ambled through the graveyard of my local church, my two dogs aroused by the smells of morning dew,  I came across the headstone of a Victorian lady that had lost her husband in his forties, only to lose her 1 yr old child less than 4 months later, and a few years later her 10 yr old daughter.  Unconvinced that I could find another loss to beat this one (a sick graveyard game I often feel compelled to play), I  stumbled upon another grave erected to mark the passing of a young couple’s 3 girls who had died just 3 months apart.  10 months, 4 years, 6 years in age.  Cause unknown.

Sometimes my loss feels so enormous, and yet so small when I read of other families devastated like this. To lose a mum at 71 would have seemed mere fantasy 100 years ago. To get through life without feeling the loss of a child? Blessed good fortune.

And as I turn on the television tonight to hear of the plight of those in Africa, thousands dying from Malaria and Aids, I realise this luck isn’t only divided by time, but by continent too.

And  I feel acutely my luck, rather than my loss.


Don’t forget to donate to Comic Relief this Red Nose Day. 


6 Responses to “The changing perception of loss”

  1. liveotherwise March 15, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Absolutely spot on with that last observation.

  2. helenedickson March 15, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Beautifully written H and something I also strangely enjoy (not in a macabre way). Give perspective on life and death.

  3. Nadia March 15, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Really pleased to have M2M back again. Keep writing and posting. I’m a bit preoccupied with death at the moment as I keep hearing about people around me or others’ lives falling very ill or dying. Like you, it makes me realise how lucky I am but that luck does seem very fragile- it’s hard to forget that it can be taken away at the drop of a hat.

  4. Simone @Greatfun4kids March 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Wow, powerful stuff Henri!
    I’ve always been fascinated by old graveyards too… although with a country as young as NZ our most ANCIENT ones only date back to the 1800s. When I’ve been in the UK I get amazed when visiting your truly ancient gravesites; imagining the people whose lives and grief was so raw and new. It’s so poignant and really does put things into perspective. Yet at the same time, our own losses and grief are not truly diminished by “worse” ones elsewhere; I always get cross at hubby when he tries to jolly me out of a funk by reminding me about the “mothers who have been up at the crack of dawn juggling three factory jobs and how much easier my life is than theirs, so what do i have to complain about?”
    It HELPS on one level to have the perspective of knowing others have it worse, but still, it doesn’t remove the ache.

    LOVE the way you write.

    (BTW SO excited to see a new post from you)

  5. Looking for blue sky March 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I spend a lot of time alone and it’s easy to think that my losses and my problems are too much to bear. Thank you for this beautiful post reminding me that they are not xx

  6. Jem March 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Touching post. Thank you for sharing.

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