Three things combined to bring me to these thoughts on grief: listening to NPR; reading a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel; and watching a documentary on the Roman Empire…
As I was driving to pick up my son from preschool, I had the rare moment to listen to something else besides cartoons.
NPR was hosting the author of a book on how to grieve the loss of a pet. Now some out there, myself included, might chuckle over the idea of needing a book on how to grieve over a pet, but I’m one to talk. We lost our dog seven years ago and I’m still not over it.
So I listened a bit more and became engrossed in the commentators’ responses. My mind did, however, start drawing comparisons about the documentary on the fall of the Roman Empire my husband and I have been watching. Oh yes, my rather scattered mind did find a tie between the two…
The span of time the Romans had lasting peace became increasingly brief. In some years, war (or plague) was as common as breath and the civilians were not excluded from its ravages.
Especially towards the end of the Western Roman Empire, the raids on the villagers became almost a daily sport. I imagine people woke up each morning wondering if they’d live to see another day.
With death so common and its constant threat so real, I can’t think they had time or ability even to grieve. How horrific each rustle and sound of hoof must have been as the villagers fought to maintain a normal life in a time where living was never a guarantee.
I’ve seen that look in people’s faces—the look of one haunted and sort of shut down. I saw it on the faces of the Africans who barely survived the LRA and on the faces of the Algerians who lived in daily threat of terrorist violence. It’s not a look I find often in America, however, but it’s unfortunately always possible.
I think all of us in America were caught off guard when Katrina hit and of course when 9/11 hit as well. It just didn’t seem possible that this sort of violence could strike American soil. We’d lived so long in relative peace that the thought of slaughter on our soil just didn’t penetrate the average mind.
The grief over those events was real and prolonged, and it was a luxury that many around the world could never have indulged in because another tragedy was ever waiting to heap upon the one before.
So back to the book on how to grieve over the loss of a pet... As trivial as it might seem in the world context with Syria, Iran and North Korea making the daily news, it is a sign of a society that has the luxury to grieve and one we can be grateful for.
P.S. Whilst in my “doomsday” mood, I watched the Decoded episode on the Mayan 2012 end of times predictions—nice isn’t it :). Anyway, it’s a great episode and one worth watching: http://www.history.com/shows/brad-meltzers-decoded/videos#brad-meltzers-decoded-2012-the-beginning