How do you mourn?


We each deal with grief in our own, personal way, but journalist Annemiek Leclaire — mourning her partner who recently passed away — wonders if there are any general answers for how she should cope with her immense grief.

Mourning, whatever the loss that causes it, is as personal as a fingerprint. And that in itself is also somewhat comforting. Nevertheless, experts say there are a few general guidelines to finding a healthy path through the mourning. The first one is ‘experiencing the reality of the loss’.

“That can take a long time,” Flemish psychologist and mourning specialist Manu Keirse says. “Your heart is not ready, your brain is numb.” Even as I write this, just a few months after the death of my loved one, I find it difficult to realize that he is gone forever. As that awareness deepens, the pain also grows.

‘Accepting that pain’ is the second guideline. American author Elizabeth Gilbert, who lost her partner to cancer, describes her mourning as a wave that washes over you at unexpected times: “Grief has its own timeframe, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more… The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility and you let it rock you until it is done with you. And it will be done with you, eventually. And when it is done, it will leave. But to stiffen, to resist, and to fight it is to hurt yourself.”

  • The complete story can be found in Issue 34.

Text Annemiek Leclaire  Photography David Solce/