“Grief has limits, where as apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen.” — Pliny the Younger, Roman judge and man of letters 61-113 A.D.
A friend left the above quote on my Facebook profile, and it has made me wonder if Pliny the Younger is right. (Also made me wonder if there is a Pliny the Elder, so I looked it up. Yes, there is, and he is Younger’s uncle. Both men were witnesses to the eruption to Vesuvius, though Elder did not survive the eruption. I knew that. Just forgot it.)
I wonder how much Younger grieved his uncle, or anyone, because grief doesn’t seem to have limits. It is true that even profound grief wanes, but the nature of such grief is that when something brings the deceased love one to mind years afterward, reminding us of our loss, our grief can be as raw as it was at the beginning.
Fear, on the other hand, does have limits. As Teach, one of the characters in Daughter Am I, says:
“Mob bosses ran their businesses like fiefdoms—they demanded total loyalty, but felt no need to treat their underlings fairly. They thought they could rule by fear, but when fear is around every corner, people lose their fear of the fear. They sometimes even lose their fear of the ones administering the fear.
“All the bodyguards and all those layers of insulation the bosses surrounded themselves with weren’t just to protect themselves from the law and from their rivals, but also from their own disgruntled employees.”
People have criticized my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire for my having the characters let go of their fear of both the red death and the quarantine, but the truth is, fear — and apprehension — get so exhausting, it loses its tension like overstretched elastic, and it just lets go of us. We human creatures also have a prodigious capacity to adjust to most circumstances, even fearful ones. Besides, there’s not much of a story if the characters simply hide from their fate. Some have to go meet their fear head on.
I haven’t had to deal with anything truly fearsome in my life, like an epidemic or torture or having hot lava rain down on me, but I am apprehensive at times when I think about having to leave my present situation taking care of my aged father. I don’t know where I am going to go, how I will live, or even where I will live. Still, whatever scenarios my apprehensive mind conjures, none of them can compare in any way to the pain of losing my life mate soul mate.
I am currently grieving the loss of a long time friend, a loss that has come not through death but misunderstanding and heartbreak, and that grief too is worse than any apprehension I might have, especially since I haven’t been able to sort through all that happened in order to make sense of the loss.
It’s possible I simply don’t have a strong enough imagination for apprehension to be greater than grief. Or maybe it’s that I’m learning to take life as it comes. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that no matter what fearsome circumstances I will face, there I will be. A survivor.
Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
October 11, 2014 at 9:50 am
Fascinating post! But maybe it depends on the person and there is no definitive answer.
October 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm
True. It would depend on the person.