"The death of a parent, he wrote, 'despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise us and that may cut free memories and feelings that we had thought gone to ground long ago. We might, in that indeterminate period they call mourning, be in a submarine, silent on the ocean's bed, aware of the depth changes, now near and now far, buffeting us with recollections.'" p. 27.
"Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who had ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of 'waves'." p. 27.
"When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to 'get through it,' rise to the occasion, exhibit the 'strength' that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless itself." p. 189.
"'A singe person is missing for you, and the whole word is empty,' Philippe Aries wrote to the point of this aversion in Western Attitudes Toward Death. 'But one no longer has the right to say so aloud.' We remind ourselves repeatedly that our own loss is nothing compared to the loss experienced (or, the even worse thought, not experienced) by he or she who died; this attempt at corrective thinking serves only to plunge us deeper into the self-regarding deep... The very language we use when we think about self-pity betrays the deep abhorrence in which we hold it: self pity is feeling sorry for yourself, self-pity is thumb-sucking,self-pity is boo hoo poor me, self-pity is the condition in which those feeling for themselves indulge, or even wallow." p. 192.
Excerpts from The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.