An Arabic traditional tale tells about a hunter who is out hunting with his son. During the hunt, the son is killed by a monster. The hunter is in grief, but what really pains him is how to tell this to the child’s mother, his wife. When he arrives back home he asks his wife to borrow a pot from some neighbors, because the prey he has caught must be cooked in a pot that comes from a home that has not known grief. The wife goes from neighbor to neighbor to find this pot, but there is no home that has not known grief, which has not lost anyone close to them. The pot is not to be found. The traditional story tells about the grief that affects everyone and although the feeling of loneliness in the loss of someone close is overwhelming, the stories tell us that someone has experienced something similar, you are not alone.
When someone close dies, one is struck by unimaginable grief and for a big or small moment (which feels like eternity itself), life loses meaning. Saying that someone died is difficult, it is made easier by using words that he or she passed away, left us etc. The loss of meaning with life leads to an existential loneliness that can be remedied through relationships and closeness with others. Family and other close people are needed in the immediate period, while also being alone to feel the grief is important, as one need to see if one can replace the dialogue with the one who passed away, with an inner dialogue where the dead now exists only through an imaginary presence.
I’m no expert in grief, but like many others and as the story above tells, I have lost someone close. One of my sons died in 2016 and now I hold on to the pain, it tells me that he once lived. Because I am a storyteller, I was able to study traditional stories such as folk tales and myths to understand through the experiences of others when someone near dies. The Norse myth of Balder became my main story. When the beautiful god Balder dies, the gods are so filled with grief that they cannot talk, because if they open their mouths they cannot control what is being said and their arms hang down heavily, says the myth. Balder’s death opens the gates of Hel and serves as a prehistory to Ragnarokk (the end of the world) which in my experience became the total grief. Yes, the whole world is crying and going down when the person you love above all disappears, because you are left with experiences of the one who lived and now are dead, you have to sort the experiences and make him or her alive through words, the dead must be transformed into memories.
The myth of Balder has its comedic little brother in the folk tale about the cock who fell into a tub of beer. In short, it is about a cock and hen who decides to brew beer, the cock is eager to taste the beer, but because of his inability to fly as well as keep his balance he falls into the tub of brewing beer and dies. The hen is left with the grief, which she cries out so deeply that the world reacts and mourns with her. The hand mills start grinding, the chair creaking, the door beating, the broom to sweep, etc. This is a cumulative tale, so each part is added, while the previous parts are repeated, the story expands and the grief becomes massive as a crying choir. The folk tale is comical and a vulgar side kick to the grief. One of my important experiences in my grief is that everyone must be allowed to express grief in the way that is appropriate for the individual. There were situations that gave the impression that I was handling the grief incorrectly in relation to social rules. The day after my son’s funeral, I had a performance and it could be interpreted as if I pushed my grief into the lives of others. For me, work was a way to deal with the parallel life I was in. I was in the sacred space with the grief, but there was also a life outside this room that moved on with its routines and everyday events. I was intrigued by our ability to handle a multitude of aspects, for while grieving, one must be practical in arranging a burial, communicating with others mourning, and dealing with the prosaic events that inexorably hold on to everyday life in a rhythmic progression.
The Hindu myth of Yama and Yami tells about how grief finds relief. Yama and Yami are the first two in the world. Yama dies and Yami is inconsolable. She is lost in existential solitude through a crying grief so strong that the gods think she will destroy the world, a kind of Ragnarok here as well. They try to comfort her by saying that this is part of living, one must die. It does not help. The gods must then create something that can soften her grief. They make a distinction between night and day, then and now, they create time. The little myth says that grief will never disappear, but time will dampen its powerful presence. To grieve is to be in a presence with the life and the memories and the fear of losing what has been. The grief never disappears; it lies there like in a hibernation, an incident, a song, a smell, a vision can cause it to flare up again like an inner hurricane.
The grief is there and if there is any consolation, it will never disappear because it reminds us that we are a part of the lives of others and their lives are carried by us.