Loss, or When There Is No Doctrine

“I just don’t want anyone else to tell me what to believe,” my friend said with firmness. We were discussing religion. She knows I identify as Mormon, and she has some faraway Mormon relatives. She knew them when she and they were teens, a good twenty years ago. Religion, time and physical distance added them …

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On Loss and Living Onward, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

By Kellie Purcill

Loss: noun: failure to keep or to continue to have something

: the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed

Grief: noun: deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death

: a cause of deep sadness

: trouble or annoyance

There is no dictionary-wrapped definition which fully conveys or explains loss or grief. For all who have lost, who have mourned, who have been wracked by pain, every ache and stab, every fresh realisation and memory is a unique, isolating event. For those who stand near or beside those who have lost and grieve, there is so much pain to bear witness to, let alone wade through to be with those we love.

We all know the echo of empty words, the stinging reassurances that “[insert fatuous/well-meaning/faithful/condescending/hopeful/comfort-intending phrase here]”. But what is there to say or do when sorrow drags us to the floor, or leaves us standing distant from the mourner, unsure of what would be best?

Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s second and latest book, On Loss and Living Onward, is a balm to the grieving heart, the sodden eyes of – as the subtitle shares – ‘for the grieving and those who would mourn with them’. Melissa begins chapters with experiences from her own journey with loss, following the death of her eldest son Parker. Then there are quotes, excerpts, poems and scriptures in collections: ‘Life at death’, ‘Love at death’, ‘Living after death’, ‘Learning from death’, and ‘Light, love, and life over death’.

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The Valley of Death

By Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Editors note: We are thrilled to introduce Melissa Dalton Bradford as a new contributor to the Segullah blog. You may recognize her name from several poems featured in the Segullah literary magazine; Melissa’s grace, beauty and wisdom and an incredible asset to our community.

I’m sitting in a pediatrician’s examination room.  We’ve been living in Munich for nearly three months, and my eleven-year-old Dalton has contracted a bad chest cold he just can’t shake.  This starched-smock doctor I’ve known for twelve minutes takes notes as I recite Dalton’s medical profile. I would like antibiotics.  Frau Doktor would like a complete history. Dalton would like to get out of there. Sitting stripped to his underwear on the gray examination table, he appears disconnected from our conversation which is in German, a language I incorrectly presume Dalton cannot yet understand.  (He later tells me he followed this whole exchange.)

“You know, Frau Bradford,” she places her pen flat on her clipboard, “this boy seems depressed.”

“Depressed?” I feign nonchalance. “Hmmm.  You think?  Well, maybe he looks quite sad.” I act like I’m scrutinizing him. (Scan up. Scan down.)  He does indeed look very sad.  Mournful, even.

Weakly pulling at a string dangling from the leg of his underwear, he coughs that foamy, upholstered kind of cough, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.  Frau Doktor’s Kleenex reflex is snappy.

“And the reasons your son would be sad. . .?”  she asks, extending him a tissue. She then poises her pen to make the list: “I suppose your recent move from France? The new school? Losing friends?”

“Actually. . .those aren’t the reasons,” I say. “Well. . .except maybe the last one.”

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