Soul Sapping Sources of Spiritual Pain: Finding Meaning in Grief

20160612_114843-1But hearken, O Death! Is not this my life hard enough, —is not that dull land that stretches its sneering web about me cold enough, —is not all the world beyond these four little walls pitiless enough, but that thou must needs enter here, —thou, O Death? … Wast thou so jealous of one little corner of happiness that thou must needs enter there, —thou, O Death?
These words were written by WEB Dubois upon the death of his baby boy. He devoted a full chapter of his classic book, The Souls of Black Folk to that awful experience that he and his wife endured. He reflected on the immense joy that accompanied the birth of the child, the days of happiness that enveloped their home as they watched the child develop. However, that happiness was shattered when he became ill around 18 months of age and after a 10-day illness he died. In the midst of his grief Dubois reflected on the hard lot that he and the people of his race endured decades after emancipation. As he thought about the world his son would have been born into and the oppression, hardship and discrimination he would have to endure, he wrote: “blame me not if I see the world thus darkly through the veil, —and my soul whispers ever to me saying, “Not dead, not dead, but escaped; not bond, but free. No bitter meanness now shall sicken his baby heart till it dies a living death, no taunt shall madden his happy boyhood.” Here Dubois contrasted the physical death of his child to the “living death” of his identity as a human being born into an oppressed race. Thus even the pain of death became a moment of freedom.

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