February 13th, 2013
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Some wonderful friends on the West Coast gave me Roger Rosenblatt’s book, Kayak Morning, as a Christmas present.  I was familiar with Rosenblatt as a writer for Time magazine and also as a columnist for The Washington Post, but was unfamiliar with the tragic death of his daughter, Amy Solomon,  a 38-year-old wife and mother of three children, from a heart condition.

In Kayak Morning, which was written two years after Amy’s death, Rosenblatt explores the human experience of loss.  His descriptions of his grief and his reflections about his daughter Amy’s death are calm and straightforward yet poignant.

It is while Rosenblatt is kayaking in a creek not far from his home in Quogue, New York that he finds the solitude he needs to sort through his scattered thoughts about his grief and work through his deep sorrow to try and make sense out of what has happened to him and his wife, Ginny.  Rosenblatt recounts conversations that occurred during this particular summer of kayaking and in an unusually striking discussion, he presents the idea that grief is a gift:

“You have to understand,” she said. “Grief lasts forever.”

“Like death,” I said.

“Like death. Except death is someone else’s condition, and grief is all yours.”

“I feel worse now than I did shortly after she died.”

“And you’ll feel worse next year.  And worse the year after that, unless you find a way to transform your grief.”

“We’re back to that.”

“We’ve never left it,” she said. “Grief comes to you all at once, so you think it will be over all at once. But it is your guest for a lifetime.”

“How should I treat this guest? This unwelcome, uninvited guest.”

“Think of the one who sent it to you,” she said.

I thought I had become familiar with most of the different ways that grief can be felt and presented to a person who has lost a loved one until I read the above excerpt.  It took me aback; the first time I read it, I thought to myself, “Grief is definitely not a present to be opened and cherished.”

But the more that I thought about the profound idea of it, the more I began to understand Rosenblatt’s surprising point about grief being something personal given to you by the person you loved and lost.  For it is in our grief, that we struggle to still keep our loved one alive.

Through writing down memories and sharing stories about the spouse, child, parent, friend or relative you loved and lost, you are  remembering your loved one, and as painful as your loss is in the beginning, grief, through the passing of time, does become more manageable.

Bringing your loved one back into your life through stories becomes a gift of sorts through the laughter, smiles and even tears that the person’s life brings to others.

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