Mighty Life List
Nov 14 2006

On Grief

The best parts of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

“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.”

“I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome.”

“I found myself wondering with no sense of illogic, if it had also happened in Los Angeles. I was trying to work out what time it had been when he died, and whether it was that time yet in Los Angeles. (Was there time to go back? Could we have a different ending on Pacific Time?)”

17 Responses to “On Grief”

  • Maggie Says:

    This is such a coincidence as just a few hours earlier something made this book come to mind, and having not read it yet, I checked it out from the library. I look forward to reading it.

  • Julie Says:

    “blind the yes” – is that a missing “e”? Makes sense either way.

    I am afraid to read that book.

  • kelly Says:

    Thanks for that, I just moved this book to the top of my *next trip to the library* list.

  • ~moe~ Says:

    How often I’ve wondered those same thoughts – especially the last paragraph. I, too, am moving that book to the top of my list. Awesome.

  • ksh Says:

    It’s well worth the read, she covers a lot of ground that anyone grieving will find very familiar.

  • a cup of tea Says:

    Have you openly sobbed in public yet while reading it? I was a complete mess when I decided to take that book with me on my morning commute. In spite of the fact that she has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion, I am so glad I finally discovered Joan Didion: I’ve devoured five more of her books just this year. Glad to see you are appreciating her, too.

  • Amber Says:

    Joan Didion is one of my favorite writers. I read The Year of Magical Thinking right after my grandmother passed away earlier this year, and it was both heartbreaking and a huge help. I like her description of experiencing waves of grief as being swept into a vortex. If you haven’t already picked it up, you should check out Slouching Toward Bethlehem. The woman is brilliant.

  • John Hank Says:

    Hi, Maggie Mason…
    just landed on your blog, i view your topics they quite interesting and useful. well new to this web line.

  • Leslie Says:

    I liked this book a lot until I got to the part where she said that divorce can’t compare to death. How can you compare grief and say one is worse than the other?

  • Adrienne Says:

    To Leslie’s comment even though I have not read this book: I’ve not ever been married therefore divorced, but I lost my mother to cancer. I am a child of divorced parents and know that divorce is usually painful. But the difference in knowing someone is still around to communicate versus the finality of the loss of someone who won’t be there to see you get married, hold their grandchildren, or just be there to comfort me when I’m angry & hurt and need them the most, is a far greater pain than I ever imagine divorce could be. I’m not commenting to criticize anyone’s individual experiences, but I think this book could be a great way to help identify and relate one’s own individual grief process to another’s grieving process. Grieving is an individual experience, best helped when relating with others who’ve experienced it as well.

  • m Says:

    Dealing with divorce can be just as painful as dealing with the death of a loved one. I’ve been through both and would be hard pressed to say which was worse.

  • Anne Says:

    I am a child of divorce who has been divorced. Though my parents’ divorce caused my a lot of pain, that anguish didn’t begin to compare to what I faced when dealing with my own divorce.

    I think, for some, divorce is a death of sorts.

  • paul Says:

    Joan Didion is my most favorite writer in all of the world. That book was great. It defined, for me, many thoughts I’d had in the deaths of relatives and friends. You find yourself agreeing that this or that emotion is the one you’ve had. I pray her best writing is yet to come.

    PS The 1 yr grief period is pretty significant here.

  • nadarine Says:

    I’d go so far as to say that the ENTIRE BOOK is the best part. The boyfriend got it for me last year, and I devoured it in one sitting. I keep going back to her and tapping my finger on the page saying YES.

  • emily Says:

    speaking of magical thinking, have you read augusten burroughs collection of shorts “magical thinking”?

  • shuna fish lydon Says:

    Nothing helped me with my grief more than this book. If you’re afraid of it, as I was, read one page at a time.

    I quoted the beginning of chapter 17 on eggbeater a few months ago.

  • crzylady Says:

    oh joan. one of my heros. I discovered her my freshman year in college and only through a quote in some summation article. I ran out to buy her books. she is amazing.