“Be not consoled and feel no need to be consoled.“
This quote is from the book, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was spoken by the Elder Zosima to a woman weeping uncontrollably over the death of her child, who so desperately wishes for her child in her arms again. The woman has previously only received cheap sympathy from those who wish her to stop being so demonstrative in her grief.
I understand that Dostoyevsky grieved over the death of his own son just prior to writing this book, which might explain the potent empathy of such a statement.
We can be hard on our grieving selves. I know I am. I have experienced deep grief, most recently over my mom’s illness (Lewy Body Dementia) and the loss of her vivacious presence in our lives. I’ve been especially inconsolable during COVID as I consider her isolation, an added hardship.
I haven’t had anyone advise me to stop, I’ve done that to myself. I have not wanted to be interrupted by grief. I want my heart to stop raising the issue already. I want to be “normal.” I want to rally my energies to keep going. Instead, I add to my grief a cruel judgment that, because of my inopportune emotions and the way they can level me, I have become ineffective and I’m letting myself and others down.
This statement – be not consoled! – rather gives fresh permission to let grief do its cleansing work, let it run its course without interruption, honour the loss, even make room to do so. It miraculously gives hope and courage while imposing neither.
I plan to self-administer this merciful advice – I did today – and share it with you too, as I suspect we all have our share of grief we’re trying to contend with.
Suppress it no further. Be free to grieve.