the year of magical thinking


Joan Didion captured the lived-experience of Grief perfectly in her book The Year of Magical Thinking.  

For those of you needing comfort from a broken heart caused by bereavement (not just through death but a loss that comes in many shapes and forms) you will find that this book will put into words what your heart wants to say but unable to do so. It offers you something in return for your time and patience. The book will try to make sense of the process of grief that you are feeling- that there is no timeline and despite our assurances of knowing-what-it-must-be-like we can never really know until we arrive at that place (and when grief arrives in its boat to meet us).


Most of life is like this I think.  We think we know how we are going to feel when something in the future happens.

We, (I for instance), dread that late-night call that will surely, as the sun will rise tomorrow, come at some point.

I think I know how I will be at that point but I know that I don’t know, not really at least.

The impact of that heartbreak is something I will only truly feel and experience when that time presents itself and now it only sits in that place where imagination is wild but removed from reality.  But in my smallest of hearts, I can only hope that when those heart-breaking moments arrive I will remember Joan Didion’s words of wisdom and her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, a superb read in its entirety — enormously difficult, but the kind that stays with you for a lifetime

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.



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I'm a woman living in London and this blog captures what lands within my sight and connects with my psyche. I expect it to evolve naturally. It is a place I shall visit from time to time and where things that I am touched by deeply will find a soft place to land. As a psychotherapist and a continuing student, most of the articles you shall find here will somehow, in some way, be related to therapy and well-being. I love comments, so feel free to add yours, whenever and however. I wish you well.

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