IS IT BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN NEVER TO HAVE LOVED AT ALL?
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote about grief in his poem In Memoriam A.H.H. about the death of his friend and fellow poet Arthur Henry Hallam:
“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
After Peter died almost four years ago, I was in such pain that I actually believed if I could simply wipe away the pain and suffering, life would be palatable. But then I remembered, that if I wiped away all the memories, I wouldn’t be able to conjure up all the cherished and meaningful moments. Could I trade a lack of pain for a loss of the memories of my love? This reminded me of the movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which details two people who have fallen out of love and have a procedure to erase all of their memories. In my grief I pondered the value of memories and the danger of erasing them from my mind just to alleviate the pain of loss. It was clear to me that it was better to have loved Peter and lost him then never to have loved him at all.
We cannot live in a protective bubble avoiding love and relationships just to dodge the pain of loss. How pathetic would our lives be if we didn’t find fulfilling relationships just because we lived in fear of pain and loss? Love is clearly worth the risk. Love is treasured and nurtured in a good relationship and despite the fragility of life, experiencing the warmth and glow of love is worth every ounce of pain suffered in grief. I was lucky to have found a man with whom I could laugh, love, and share my innermost thoughts. OK, he didn’t love vegetables, and he was not a perfect man, but he was perfect for me. He was my mirror where I could reflect his love and know that I was cherished to the nth degree. I valued our time together, I appreciated every moment of happiness, and I took pleasure in the good times. Yes, I was blindsided by his sudden death and my loss was cavernous, but I look back at the memories and can smile and be content that I relished and savored our union.
Grief breaks your heart and empties out your soul but grief is also another form of love. Grief tries to make sense of the shattered status of your life. Using the love you experienced as a salve, can help you paste the broken shards of your life back together. In the grieving process, once you accept the finality of your loss, you can adapt to it and find a new way to embrace the wonders and goodness of your love. I am honoring Peter by finding a new life of meaning without him. I am respecting the memory of our marriage and finding a form of benefit in my loss. I am beholden for having loved well. I am thankful for having loved Peter because I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I am grateful for the time we had together and will cherish it in perpetuity.
The definition of grief is “keen mental suffering or distress over a loss; a sharp sorrow; a painful regret.” I have no regrets about my love. I know that it was better to have loved Peter than never to have loved him at all. Despite the pain of grief, I recognize the duality of gain in my loss. I have acquired a perspective on life and my writing has helped me to understand my journey. My writing continues to comfort me and I feel that my life is richer for having loved so well. I will move forward to my acceptably different life with my cherished memories and the love of Peter nestled utterly in my heart.
“The risk of love is loss and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love”
― Hilary Stanton Zunin
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