Choosing Love

By Emma Pearson

June 22, 2024

Main picture by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

30 January 2022

January’s Monthly Prompt from Megan Devine & Refuge in Grief for Grieflings who have been through her 30-day Writing your Grief Programme

“For decades, my parents have said they wouldn’t get new dogs or cats when the ones they had died. Their last dog died over ten years ago, their last cat, five. Death was too hard, they said. The pain was too much. Despite missing the presence of beasties in their home, they’ve remained pet-free. 

​Before Matt died, I thought this was ridiculous. Why deny yourself the deep joy and pleasure you get from your pets just to spare yourself their death? 

​I wonder if I still think the same thing. I think I do. 

Generally on my mind this week – loving more. Not just pets, and not even just other humans. I mean, love. Loving anything. Loving the world, the oceans, the stars – I mean, that’s kind of easy, because they aren’t likely to die. But living here, living here still, choosing love of any kind means choosing grief or pain, sooner or later. Do we practice the harm reduction model of love, shrinking down the sphere of acceptable love in order to minimize future pain, or do we cast open the doors of our hearts in a sort of wild, do what you will to me, abandon? 

No right choice there, certainly. And maybe we don’t have a choice. Maybe, as long as we are alive, this world will call us to love, give us opportunities to open our hearts to joy and beauty, even knowing what we know about death and loss. Do we love more, knowing the risk? Or do we make smaller, safer choices that diminish the chance of grief by shrinking the experience of love? No idea, writers”.

I always love Megan’s prompts. They get my brain – and heart, and soul – noodling. There is always such richness. Wonderings to ponder. Questions to live into. No answers given.  

“…choosing love of any kind means choosing grief or pain, sooner or later”.

Did I know that when I signed up for a lifetime on this planet earth?

Did those of us who tied wedding bows and said vows really think it through when we said the words (which, by the way, Mike and I didn’t), “…till death do us part”? (let’s be clear – every marriage will end in death or divorce)

Did I ever contemplate that a younger-than-me sibling might die, as we made mud pies, or fought over who had seconds at dinner-time?

Did I ever stop to think that one day all I might have left of a child is photos, artwork, scraps of hand-writing, and fading memories – no smells, no hugs, no warmth, and definitely nothing tangible?

Nope. Not me.

“Do we love more, knowing the risk… or do we make smaller, safer choices that diminish the chance of grief?”

This is such a good question, and we each need to choose our answer to it. If we believe, as the wise Buddhists espouse, that everything ends, nothing is permanent, suffering results from misguided attachment to whatever, and grief comes with the rupture of an important attachment, then it makes logical sense to choose not to love, not to attach. And plenty of people choose that route, consciously or unconsciously. I think I know some such bods.

And yet, my greater experience is that people who have had significant loss(es) as a result of death are the more likely ones to try and try and try to keep their hearts open, to live and love with trust. Perhaps more so than people who have had significant loss(es) as a result of divorce or separation.  And no – I have not done an actual study. This is just finger in the wind hypothesis testing. Based on a non-representative sample of Griefling friends.

Griefling friends whose partners died in their sleep from one day to the next…

Griefling friends who watched their partner disappear quickly or slowly in front of their eyes…

Griefling friends whose partners went out for exercise and didn’t come back…

They go on living, they go on hoping, they go on wanting to channel their love into another breathing human, even as they continue to grieve the life and love they wish they could still have with their no longer breathing soul mate.

It takes guts to love again and again.

I know that my relationship with Medjool will end, whether because of death or separation. Either he will die before me, and I will grieve the enormity of yet another lost love. Or I will die first, and he will grieve the loss of me. If there is terminal illness, all the inevitable endings must be acknowledged and honoured and grieved. And if there is a separation, at this stage, it will feel as heart-breaking as divorce.

So why do it? Why jump all in to another set-up for inevitable loss and grief? Why choose love that has no guarantees. Actually – the one guarantee IS loss and pain and grief.

For me, loving and being loved is such a powerful life force, that choosing to love (again) is a no-brainer. Love is THE enabler of core human needs – attachment, belonging, safety, significance, competence, growth – even freedom. It’s a red thread. Bicycle chain oil. A draw string, pulling it all together. The mesh on to which the tapestry of life is woven.

When I love and am loved, I feel whole, complete, seen, relevant, capable, important, creative, healthy, happy, precious, generous, stretched. And much more.

With love, I have wings and can soar.

Though by golly, if you ever watch a baby bird leave the safety of its cocoon-y nest, you’ll know what a leap of faith that takes.

And as most baby birds get to realise, it’s a leap worth taking.

About Emma Pearson

1 thought on “Choosing Love

  1. I love that you love.
    The wise old Tennyson (I had to look it up) said ´Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all.’ For what kind of world would we have if there was no love. Are there different kinds of love? What does it mean to love? Is love a conscious choice? Your reflections create and myriad of questions…
    Perhaps self-love is the starting point and maybe for some of us, the hardest kind of love but surely the least risky. There is more risk involved in not loving oneself I think

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