My father died recently. This is, in a word, suboptimal. It has also given me occasion to observe closely, sometimes more closely than I’d like, this emotional landscape, these territories of grief.

My immediate response when I heard the news was a feeling of relief. This was familiar; it was also my immediate response when my mother’s father died, and then my mother’s mother. I have seen the indignity of slow death, have cared for loved ones who were on their deathbeds for interminable days, weeks, months. I have been impressed and horrified by how many times I could think, with hope and…