It is almost one year since my dear Mum passed away, and over that year, I have experienced a gamut of emotions. As a blogger / therapist, I’ve kept my feelings to myself as I felt the need to process internally.
Over the past couple of months, however, I have almost drawn a blank when trying to write my regular blog, and I think in all honesty it was because deep down I knew that it was time for me to write about grief, and nothing else would do!!
I’ve written it as a simple list of what I have learnt about both grief and myself along the way …………
- It sucks, literally. Especially initially, it sucks the joy out of life, it numbs, it shocks and suspends you in an altered state of consciousness. Somehow nature wraps you in a vacuum for several weeks or more as a sort of protection. You can see “normal” life carrying on around you, but you have neither energy nor interest to care.
- Grief is a shape-shifter. I believe that it never fully goes away, but fluctuates in intensity, much like the volume on a radio. As time progresses, it doesn’t feel as raw as it did for the first few weeks / months, but it’s still there, apt to surprise when least expected.
- You and only you can work through your grief. Friends and family can be there for support, a shoulder or an ear, but at the end of the day, it’s good to spend time alone to come to terms with your loss and what it means for you.
- Life will never be the same. It shouldn’t be. Grief is a major transition from one state to another. If we take time to grieve and make sense of our experience, we can hopefully continue along our path, having learnt valuable lessons and gaining a deeper understanding, all the richer overall for having shared part of our life with that person.
- It’s not disrespectful to carry on with life. Understandably, guilt can come a-visiting when we find ourselves laughing for the first time after a loss, or when we realise that we haven’t thought of that person for the past five minutes. How dare we forget?! How dare we experience what they can no longer enjoy? If we allow ourselves to die at some level alongside our loved one, we are wasting a precious gift, and let’s face it, we won’t have a lot to talk about when we do next meet them!!
- No two griefs are the same. Every grief is its unique experience. It depends on person, relationship, and what else is going on in our lives. My father’s untimely death, when I was 11, was seen through an 11-year old’s eyes and felt as a young girl losing her beloved Dad. When Mum died, I lost a best and longstanding friend of 53 years.
- Forgive people for lack of concern, stupid comments and trying to avoid talking about the deceased. Others cannot understand the exact grief you are feeling. Those inexperienced will not understand. How can they? I’ve been there myself. You may think that you know, but it is only when it happens to you personally that you realise that you hadn’t had a clue before that point. In the west, we seem ill-equipped to cope with death, avoiding the subject and suppressing feelings. Having not had the conversation with ourselves, it is understandably difficult to articulate with another, especially during a time when that person is grieving and vulnerable. Platitudes are overused at times of grief, often to fill an uncomfortable silence which would be better kept just that – silent!!
- Be thankful for both the small and bigger things that people DO offer So many things have really touched me during this first year without Mum. Beautiful words in a card, a hug, my friends coming miles to attend her funeral just to support me, friends ringing up regularly to check on how I am doing or just simply telling me that I am in their thoughts.
- Grief focuses the mind on what is important. It seems so clichéd to say this but time IS precious. As you live through the last few days of a loved one, there is no pause button, and the clocks heartlessly still tick the precious minutes and hours away. Life outside, as you were no doubt living just a short time back, is carrying on without a care in the world, or so it seems. When Mum died, I had a sensation of looking back at my life as if watching a film or being in a trance. How had 53 years passed so quickly? Spent carelessly. Not mindfully. I hadn’t made the most of those people whom I had had in my life.
- There is no time limit to grief. Ignore what people say. After Mum died, I was told that the first year would be the worst as it was a series of “firsts” (birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas etc), but then someone else gave me a two-year estimate. Having watched Mum over forty-plus years hit a low every single August as she remembered my father’s death, I know that there really is no set rule that works for all. Intensity may mellow over time but the resonance can still very much live on. The important thing is to allow yourself time, allow the tears to flow and to be gentle with yourself.