(Short Story) Little Gods by: Tim Pratt
(Reaction) Surviving Grief by: Teacher Kitty
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Grieving for loved ones is a natural process that humans go through but it's a lot tougher when the loss was unexpected like a beloved fallen victim to a crime or accident. Tim Pratt takes us to a man's extraordinary journey of surviving grief with aid from the goddess of grief and her Little Gods.
The wife's sudden death was so painful because of the fact that the man was unprepared for this event. His wife was healthy and he even had plans in his head of what they can do together when they get home from the grocery. Some people gradually accept that they will lose a loved one especially when they are very sick. They cherish every moment they spend together because they know that each day can be the last. They were blessed to have the chance to say good bye, express gratefulness, and tell people that they love them. Hence, they are somewhat emotionally prepared for this day compared to people who suddenly lose loved ones like the man in the story. His wife was suddenly plucked out of his life without a warning. It was hard for him to put himself back into his regular life and routine with his wife out of the picture,
It's better outside, with just the natural world pressing around me, rather than the substance of the life Emily and I made together. Emily used to call this house our haven, our safe place, and I thought it would be so always. I never expected it to become a bleak museum of grief.
Enduring his tragedy started as the little gods went to work. He was first met by the goddess of scents with sad associations. She carried with her scents like divinity fudge, vanilla cookies and even that of Emily's skin. All of which brought
memories that a week ago would have been sweet now twist like corkscrew. These scents reminded him of what he lost.
People have varied response to scents when they lose a loved one. Some people avoid them to avoid further pain while some allow the scents to linger even if it makes them sad. Scents have the power to connect a person to their departed's memories and, thus reminding them of their loss. What's important in this part of the grieving process is digesting the fact that the person is already gone and it paves the way for acceptance to come.
The goddess of heavy hearts allowed the man to suffer the weight of his loss. This little goddess allowed him to feel his present burden and without her he
felt impossibly light as if no one he loved ever died. I think that the danger in not feeling the burden can affect a person's sense of reality. They need to come to terms with the events in their lives in order to move on. He cannot live as if nothing has happened because his present, however bleak it may seem, is a learning experience. He was no longer Emily's husband and needed to get to know himself all over again.
Another natural part of grief is embodied by the little god of guilt and bargains. He was more aggressive than the previous visitors the man had,
But you had to shout at Emily, call the boy's attention to her, startle her, startle him. If you'd just kept your mouth shut, she wouldn't be dead. This little god also had something hard to resist--- a bargain. The man can give his life in exchange for hers. With his guilt flooding him, the idea seemed the only right thing to do,
Give me the knife. And give Emily back to the world.
His reaction to the offer is very natural. He felt guilty for losing Emily, for startling the thief. People like him think of what they could have done differently. They dwell in the past, failing to recognize that they have to accept their loss. Thinking things over and over will never change what already happened. He couldn't easily cope with his emotions especially with the little god of guilt and bargains telling him,
He just wanted money.
Guilt may strike but it also allows a person to choose either to succumb or reason with it. When the little god was blaming him for Emily's death he said,
I didn't. Even if it was just a whisper, a part of him was fighting for the truth. I think that this was necessary for him to realize that he wasn't to blame for what happened. The boy was ready to shoot or he shouldn't have loaded the gun or cocked it in the first place. It wasn't the husband's fault. The boy was bound to shoot anyone at that time.
The goddess of grief explained that each god was part of the grieving process that he needed, "You can be destroyed by your loss, emptied out and drained. But without our help... it is unlikely that you will come out whole on the other side."
When offered to be released from his suffering through forgetfulness, the man chooses to hold on to his wife's memory, "No, no, no. No forgetfulness. I loved her. I won't give that up." Here, he finally faces his loss head on. He would rather go through the pain of grief than to forget what he had with his wife. He chose to come to terms with his new reality.
With his decision to hold on his wife's memories, he started to mourn. He cried, talked about his loss, raged, and sorted through his wife's belongings. The goddess of grief accompanies him and listens to his laments allowing him to sort his emotions at his own pace, "though I tell her that I feel so broken and torn-apart at times that I fear I'll never be whole, she never offers me the solace of her tear-drinking moths again."
Here, he goes through the process of grieving. He allowed himself to feel the pain of his loss. He doesn't deny how painful it is and neither blames himself for his loss. He was able to express his feelings toward this event and bid his wife farewell through sorting her things, "I feel as if I'm burying her all over again". Packing away some of her belongings symbolizes that he's finally letting go. He now has closure to this chapter of his life. He begins to accept that though his life with Emily was wonderful, it now came to an end.
He was now ready to face the world not as Emily's husband or a widower but just as himself. "Watching the colorful sails in the water, I find myself smiling, a true smile that won't turn to poison in a moment, that isn't a smile over something Emily said or did." He rediscovers himself as he watches the sailboats, realizing that this is another beginning, "This is a smile of the rest of my life."
Using little gods to aid a man in his grief was interesting for me. It reminded me of the movie What Dreams may Come, where a man went to hell to save his suicidal wife.
I'd say that I like Tim Pratt's take on a husband losing a wife better even if it's less romantic because his character dealt with his loss more realistically. I mean no one can really identify with a man who's gone to hell and was reincarnated again to meet his wife. But as a person who also lost a loved one, I was able to identify with Pratt's character. I understood the importance of crying, talking about the experience, allowing one's self to feel the pain and eventually moving on. At least that's how people usually deal with a loved one's death. Tim Pratt just made the experience more fantastic.