Sunday, 28 October 2012

the "taking something from a baby" reaction

Anyone who has had a kid or dealt with one knows the reaction you get when a baby looses what it was that it was holding a moment ago.


There may be a delay, but sure as the sunrise you'll see the emotions choke up and next thing you get that crying reaction.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the crying reaction (I really don't know what else to call it) comes out as soon as the young person (you know, babies are young people right?) looses that thing which it considered important right then.

Lots of situations can be dealt with by learning about them, but babies are still learning so many things. So they are not actually ready to make decisions and understand how to react. After all emotions can be very hard things to control. Just like coordination of the arms and legs, it takes time to control them.

Even then different people get different levels of control over their bodies, pick up a violin some time and see how well you can control that with your fingers.

The very young have not as yet learned too much about life, and so don't know things like:
  • it broke, but you can get another one
  • you just dropped it, so daddy or mummy will pick it up for you
  • it was taken away from you because that was for the better
So its hardly surprising that they deal with loss in this way.

As we get older and develop we like to think of ourselves as being smarter, stronger, more powerful, able to do anything. Truth is we are often not really any smarter, just we've learned a lot more things since then.

In this modern world we learn all sorts of things, but we seldom learn much about our emotions. We focus on learning about the physical, and about interacting with each other for the purposes of getting what we want. Many people get quite good at inter-personal dealings.

Yet despite all this preparation for living we have little or no thought about preparation for death and the losses of those we love. After all the ones we love mean more to us than any other things in our lives. So I have come to see that grief is manifested in this same reaction that babies have. Depending on the person and how well 'trained' they are out of showing their emotions, they may well suppress this crying reaction to some degree or another (or even completely).


I believe that babies (just like adults) think and experience, but (unlike adults) have not yet learned about words. Words are powerful constructions for both communication and even forming and guiding our inner thoughts. Anyone who only knows one language (and looking at the stats of where this blog is read I'd say that's most of my readers so far) will have a hard time grasping the fullness of this point, but:
knowing only one language shapes how you can think and consider about an issue, by knowing more than one we can see the world differently and understand things we could not have otherwise done.
Those who are multi-lingual (especially who know European and Asian languages) will already be aware of the significance of the above point. For there are just things which can't be said or expressed well in one language but which another is adroit at.

The psychologists who attempt to study and document grief fail to grasp that by doing this with words only they attempt to force a view of the world onto something which has never really been put into words (at least in English), and so it must fail.

Framework for Analysis

Despite the pervasive use of frameworks for analysis the idea is poorly taught in Universities. Nothing much seems to be written on it (at least in my quick literature review) in a general sence, only in detail on how it can be applied to find a solution to X Y or Z.

Essentially it comes down to this:
  1. you have something that you don't understand. 
  2. you propose how something may explain that (some sort of model or description)
  3. you apply the known facts and see if they all can be explained by that description
if it fits you have something to go on with, if not then go back to step 2 and try again.

Its quite obvious to anyone who has any training in science that the K├╝bler-Ross model is quite a shaky model to propose. Given that it has some 5 stages which
  • may or may not be experienced in any order, 
  • that  may or may not be experienced at all
  • that the person may experience something different
we find quickly that this model is one which fails step 3 above and falls into "it doesn't fit the observations of reality".

so why cling to it?

My view is that we can learn about this process by observing the children around us.


Grief is the suffering caused by loss. Its complex and varies for each person. It can't (as far as I can see) be rationalised because we just don't have language or concepts fit to describe it.

Unlike the dropped spoon or food, daddy can't pick it up, so almost nothing can be done to make us feel better. Its just like the earliest experiences and only time dulls the pain. Unlike babies our attention span is longer, and so its up to us as adults to take what we have learned and deal with our suffering. Because if we don't deal with it, it may not go away.

I am quite certain that I will never fully loose the pain that I feel from the loss of my darling wife. Nothing can bring her back. But then nothing can return my heart to "biologically perfect" from the results of the operation which left me functioning with a bit of plastic for an Aortic valve, but I continue to function and so can make the most of what my life can be with that as it is.

I can see that over the time since I heard that Anita was dead, that I have begun to slowly feel a duller (perhaps deeper?) pain.

Let me tell you a quick story.

This is Tiger

Tiger was given to Anita by her office friends when they heard that she was going to meet me in India and then that Anita and I would go on a tour to see tigers in the wild. Anita loved tigers and we could not miss any television documentary where a Tiger was the central item.

Tiger got to see tigers in the wild (as did Anita).

and Anita was quite fond of Tiger, she (Tiger, as Tiger was a girl "obviously") came with us on many trips.

When I heard that Anita was in a coma of some sort and was rushing to pack pack things to fly to Finland to be by her side, Tiger was one of the things I took with me, for Anita had left her behind. I had hoped that holding and touching Tiger would help and then comfort Anita.

Sadly Anita did not survive (and was in all probablility already dead before I left) my trip and was pronounced dead while I was enroute to Finland. After visiting Anita at the hospital we came home and unpacked. Anita's niece Siiri quickly discovered Tiger in my luggage and latched onto her (remember Tiger is a girl). The became immediate friends.

Which was wonderful as poor Siiri was unable to understand why everyone around her (her mother included) was crying and obviously distressed.

So Tiger now has a new owner and they are moving along well in their relationship.

moving forwards

This is something of an inspiration to me, as I (of course) still feel mired in the daily sadness of Anita's passing. Every day I look around me and see the things which we either built or worked on together in our house. Every day I go to bed and she is not there, every morning I awake and she is not there. When I wake in the night she isn't there. I continue to ask why? Why did it have to happen to me, indeed to us?

For me the pain of loss is only slowly subsiding, and there are many reminders of that pain. But life goes on around me, eventually I must dip my oar into that current and keep paddling. I make daily slow movements towards it, by going to work, fixing the things which need fixing (like my bike) and attempting to process all the feelings I have.

Its hard to do all that as I have no prior experience, nothing much to guide me and it all still hurts so much. But every day I make some progress (despite the backward slides now and then), even if I do still cry like that baby.

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