Grandiose v Insignificant

“……..moments in the being of the eternal silence”

This dynamic is a close relation to the last – a different dimension of the same. It reminds me of a personal experience, when a friend committed suicide whilst we were at college. Amidst the somewhat chaotic feelings of shock and grief, I remember the guilty awareness of some pride. The act of suicide itself seemed a mixture of the grand gesture of the tragic hero, and the miserable self absorbed expression of pathetic need. The twin poles of the memorial service for me were the performance of Schubert’s Frauenliebe und Leben – timeless music about the tragic beauty of love and death, and the shocking lack of substance of the physical human remains, the ashes, when they were scattered.

The encounter with death brings these contrasts and tensions into sharper focus. The volunteers have had to contend with this conflict. Death for example brings out aggressive fantasies that can be taken nowhere, are often hard to express or justify to the bereaved person themselves – such violent feelings can be paralysing. The first meeting with the bereaved client, as I have said, involved facing feelings of loss that are so grand and powerful that no response seems at all relevant. However, as the volunteers began to demonstrate a capacity to survive these feelings, they found themselves sometimes endowed with almost super-human powers. One widow, for example, would spend much of her time away from home with her family, but on return to the loneliness of her home, she would immediately phone the volunteer as if the contact would banish the pain. The volunteer became increasingly anxious that she was becoming indispensable to the widow and that her private life would be threatened by the demands of the relationship. She appeared at the same time vitally important, but wholly neglected as a person with needs of her own.

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