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  • Bob Ginsberg

Transforming Grief

I am years behind the times when it comes to binge watching past TV shows, but I am currently watching Westworld. I am only on the second season, but find it thought provoking. For those not familiar, the show portrays a resort world where people can visit – a world of artificially constructed human beings who have been programmed with memories and appear human in every sense of the word. The twist, at least at this point, is that the original designer secretly programmed these beings to have consciousness that evolved. Since these androids were programmed with artificial memories, some grieved the loss of loved ones, and this bereavement consumed their lives. At one point one of the main characters asked the designer to erase his memory of his deceased son, figuring that this erasure would enable him to lead a more peaceful and productive life.

In their everyday lives people will try all sorts of things to forget or numb themselves as they bemoan their lot in life. People resort to drugs, alcohol, destructive behavior patterns, and all sorts of distractions to try to escape their reality. This got me wondering if bereaved people, those experiencing profound grief after losing a loved one, would opt for erasure of their loved one’s memory if medical science provided such an option. If the grief is so debilitating that one cannot lead a life with any meaning or purpose, if the grief is so profound that it consumes their life, might not remembering the loss improve their quality of life?

I am sure that if I posed this question to the bereaved, the resounding answer would be that of course they would not want to lose memory of their loved one. The reason would be life’s most powerful emotion, love. Losing memory would be losing love, and that would be inconceivable. The love that you have is worth the pain and suffering. The trick for those who mourn the loss of a loved one is to get to the point where the love they feel becomes dominant over the pain. Memories can then become salves for the soul as opposed to arrows that pierce the heart.

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