Why does love lead to suffering?
We are nurtured with love, made for love, and aspire to love. We open our hearts, embrace vulnerability, and become emotionally naked with another. We express our fears, hopes, and deepest secrets. We invest in their dreams; we share their successes and failures as though it is ours. The little things bring great joy. We create special moments and reminisce about them after. We laugh and argue a thousand times over. We forgive. We are content to just be in their presence. We commit to the hard work required by love. We love with all our being till we love for no reason at all. All these acts of love strengthen the bond in a relationship. Love, whatever it is, can be a beautiful experience. But what happens when love leaves and its companion grief enters our home? Well, that’s the other half of the story.
Psychologists say that grief is a distinctive response to the loss of a loved person. Some also point out that it’s natural, varies in intensity and form, and is a universal part of the human condition. Simply put, you cannot grieve over what you do not value. In the absence of love, you may feel extreme sadness and sympathy, but this is distinct from grief. We all know that each person is unique, but the poignancy of this really comes to light during grief. For instance, a widow may remarry, but this does not replace the loved one lost. In the same way that each love is different, each grief is different.
Have you heard of the expression “the best things in life are free”? If love is one of the best things in life, then it is definitely not free. Researchers claim that the price for love is grief. Why is there a price for something as precious as love? There seems to be some sort of a trade-off between love and grief. If you love, you will grieve; you cannot get one without the other.
Other writers also came to the realization that when we choose love, we expose ourselves to the risk of suffering, either through death (as well as heartbreaks, which deserves its own article). Love and grief are some of the strongest human emotions. They are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, yet they are very connected with each other.
Of course, to know something intellectually as a fact and to experience it emotionally are two entirely different things. Grief is hard work. We intensely yearn to live in an alternate reality. We have racing hearts and an outburst of tears at any time, even during happy occasions. We lose our appetite, shrivel in size, and sleep the days away. We wake up each day in solitary confinement to be tormented by the loss. Periods of numbness are a short respite; the grief then crushes us under tons of brick rubble as we recall the happy moments. We plead to feel nothing again. The cycle repeats itself.
It’s a special kind of torture. Do we forsake years of happiness to avoid the turmoil of grief? In the heights of grief, the answer to that might be a yes. We know that all relationships end, but we wish for a longer beginning, a longer middle part and for the ending to not have arrived so soon. We wonder how love can bring about such unbearable grief.
Interestingly, studies show that we love because we are capable of forming close relationships; as a result, we have to adapt when separation occurs. From the research, it seems that without an ability to maintain an emotional bond with another, we would not grieve. We are creatures of habit, and loved ones often play a role in our daily routine. When we cannot pour out love in the way we’re used to, we grieve.
Adapting to a new life is part of grief work. As the reality of what the loss means unfolds, our gaping wounds swell up and infect deeper layers of our cells with each passing day. We search for the lost person, dial their phone number, and wait for a message. Have you ever heard someone say to another, “I can’t imagine my life without you”? This may mean that any separation will disrupt the person’s world. Life does not stop without our loved one, no matter how much we think it should. We have to find a way to continue to live. We have no choice. However, it may make us question the very foundation of our own world and the different pieces of ourselves never quite fit together in the same way again.
Clearly, this is not supposed to be a happy ending. We love, we lose, and then love all over again. Is that insanity or courage? It takes tremendous courage to love again knowing that love can become grief in an instant. Is there any other way to live? To live is to love is to suffer. Maybe the tears that we cried in the midst of despair are replenished in our life fountains in moments of joy. Without joy, there is no pain. Without pain, there is no joy. We bask in joy much more when we have known sorrow.
Moments, no matter how trivial, cannot be taken for granted. We carry gratitude in our hearts. Everything fades away. But the longing to hold our loved one tight and have one more conversation never quite fades away.