Grief is non-negotiable
If we love, we grieve. That’s the deal.
Born in 1957 in the Australian town of Warracknabeal, Nick Cave has produced acclaimed music, acted on stage and screen, and written numerous film scores and screenplays since the formation of his first band at Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne. Throughout it all he has endeavoured to connect with and respond to his fans, and in 2018 was sent the following message from someone named Cynthia:
I have experienced the death of my father, my sister, and my first love in the past few years and feel that I have some communication with them, mostly through dreams. They are helping me. Are you and Susie feeling that your son Arthur1 is with you and communicating in some way?
This letter was Cave’s reply.
This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it.
It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.
Eternal thanks to Nick Cave. This letter also features in Letters of Note: Grief.
Arthur, Nick Cave’s son, died in 2015. He was 15 years old.