What is grief?

A Writer of History

H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonaldA recent reading of Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk prompts the question: What is grief?

Macdonald’s grief at the sudden death of her father is overwhelming and all encompassing. “For weeks I felt I was made of dully burning metal. That’s what it was like; so much so that I was convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that if you’d put me on a bed or a chair I would have burned right through.” She explains that bereavement, “from the Old English bereafian” means “to deprive of, take away, seize, rob. Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone.”

Helen MacDonald works through her grief by training a young hawk she calls Mabel to hunt, to fly away and return to her. Strangely, almost mystically, MacDonald becomes one with her hawk, ultimately soothing and coming to terms with her loss and returning to the land…

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