The Atlantic

The Purgatory That Comes After Losing a Child

When his 2-year-old daughter died, Jayson Greene turned to writing to survive his grief, and to Dante’s Inferno for words to describe it.
Source: Doug McLean

By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature. See entries from Jonathan Franzen, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, and more.

Jayson Greene, the author of Once More We Saw Stars, lost his 2-year-old daughter, Greta, on an ordinary day, while she sat on a city bench with her grandmother. It goes against every instinct that a brick, falling from the eighth story of a crumbling Manhattan building, could end the incandescent life of a child. But that’s the gutting fact of it. It happened, against all sense.

“I imagine it’s the same for all new parents: You slowly learn to believe in your child’s ongoing existence. Their future begins to take shape in your mind,” Greene writes. “[But] what happens to this sense when your child is swiftly killed by a runaway piece of your everyday environment, at the exact moment you had given up thinking that something could take all of this away at any moment? What lesson do your nerve endings learn?”

Greene’s memoir grapples with this lesson: the ruinous insight that the world can wound loved

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