Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of “waves”. Eric Lindemann, who was chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1940s and interviewed many relatives of the 492 people killed in the 1942 Coconut Grove fire, defined the phenomenon with absolute specificity in a famous 1944 study: “Sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from 20 minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intense subjective distress described as tension or mental pain.”
Yep. I recognise most of that. This was Joan Didion writing in yesterday’s Guardian about her reaction to the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne.