Shakespeare and Son: A Journey in Writing and Grieving

By Keverne Smith | Go to book overview

6
Grief, Anger, and the Difficulty of
Mourning; Then Get Thee Gone
and Dig My Grave Thyself

So far in Shakespeare’s plays we have found two unsurprising main reactions to the death of his son: a deep sense of loss and a developing interest in moments of (apparent) resurrection. But grief often brings with it other, more disconcerting emotions—anger and a sense of abandonment, even betrayal, are commonly reported. This can take the obvious form of rage against God and the universe for allowing the death to happen, but it can also appear in the subtler form of anger against the dead person for dying, for abandoning the mourner to carry on alone. It may at first seem impossible that a parent could feel angry toward a dead child, but many counselors and therapists report that the pain caused by the loss of a child can produce rage, even though the child has clearly not chosen to die. For example, Hazel Danbury records a case where a mourning parent’s “overwhelming grief carried with it rage and also a sense of outrage that the child could do this,” that is, could be so hurtful as to die.1 Bob Wright records a mother addressing her dead child, “Why have you left me and hurt me in this way?”2 William Worden gives the example of the words of a father whose son died suddenly at the age of two months: “‘I let him into my life for two months and he left me.’ At first he felt guilty about these feelings.”3 These examples confirm the depth of the hurt when the love the parent has offered seems to have proved insufficient to

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