Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Love has everywhere to go

There’s a meme that’s quite popular on social media, so much so that there are countless versions of it. One such version is above. It’s popular, I think, because it’s one of those social media memes that seems so intuitively correct that it practically demands that we share it. Too bad it’s not true, not really.

The quote comes from author Jamie Anderson, who I’d never heard of before, but she’s apparently the author of some Doctor Who novels, among other things. The meme above contains a fuller version of the quote than many others do, and some reduce it to its last line, which is a shame because it’s the least-true thing in it.

People often quote that last line, “grief is love with nowhere to go”, as if the fact that the person we love has gone means our love for them is left sort of hanging in space. Indeed, the full quote implies that, too. It’s not. The love didn’t die just because our loved one did—it’s still there, still directed at the same person, and usually as intensely as it was in life. As I’ve said many times, we don’t grieve because the person we loved is gone, we grieve because they’re never coming back.

Because of that, it’s not that our love has nowhere to go—the fact that we still have it, feel it, express it, and send it “out there” means that our love does have somewhere to go. However, it will never again be returned by the one we love, except in our memories.

We grieve because we’ll never again feel the warmth of an embrace with our loved one, we’ll never see them smile at us as only someone who deeply loves us can. And especially because we’ll never hear them say “I love you” again. The need and desire for that connection with our loved one remains, and that has nowhere to go.

But our love itself? It still shines out from us, still spreads out into infinity, just without coming back from our lost loved one. It’s more accurate to say that grief is love that can no longer be returned, because that, in my opinion, is the core of why grief is so damned hard to live with.

It’s also true love isn’t a limited-supply kind of thing. We can love living beings strongly in many directions at once, and even deeply. The difference is just that that love can be returned.

So, if in our grief “love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest,” it’s not because it’s homeless, it’s because the loved one is no longer there to receive it and, just as importantly, to return it.

Love, then, really has everywhere to go.

This post began as comments I made, and also didn’t make, on Facebook.

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