At some point you will lose someone.
Maybe you will never have to say goodbye to another, maybe you’ll go first; however then somebody else will have lost someone so it is not really escaping it at all is it?
In the words of Steve Jobs; “Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be… It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
Maybe one day death will be a good thing but for me, personally, to have lost someone it is only bad. There was no good, no relief, no justice in my loss. There was no hope or a feeling of ‘this is as it should be’ or perhaps ‘now things will be okay’ as I think maybe it is for some. No, for me it was simply as if all the stars went out at once and my bones went cold. There was no lesson to be learnt or any strength to be gained at that point, instead it was just like I had been tied to a block of concrete and tipped overboard.
I imagine that for some, when their loved one has been fighting for days or months or years, when that moment comes when you lose them… in some way it may be seen as finding them again as they are free from suffering for the first time in a long time, and in a way I imagine for some that is better; death can be a relief.
In my case, it was sudden, it was unexpected. There was no battle that was called to a truce on his last breath. There was no chance to say goodbye.
At 11.39 on Saturday the 27th June 2015 I had a father. A healthy loving imperfectly perfect father. And then at 11.40 on Saturday the 27th June 2015 my Dad was dead.
I can’t remember what I said to him last. It was probably some stupid accented ‘see you later’ as I went out to work, but I can’t be sure. Maybe I didn’t say anything at all, too caught up in my phone or the cats or a conversation; I don’t know.
In the hours and day and weeks and months and, eventually, years to come, I have learnt some things about grief. I did not know them previously as they were newly and reluctantly learned, but here is what I discovered.
You will be angry. Very very angry and very very sad.
This will not stop for a while; I imagine that some people will lean more towards one rather than the other.
You will make stupid silent (although you may indeed vocalise them) pleads and bargains, to any deity you believe in and some you don’t. You will plead to be woken up, to be brought away from the pain. You will try and bargain for anything to be swapped in return for them to be given back. This will include yourself.
You will never feel less in control, as in that situation there is no such thing as control for you. When you lose a loved one suddenly there are not any immediate plans to make because you simply have no clue what the next step is.
You will choke back the tears because you think that may be a better plan, because your Mum is crying and you don’t want to give in and give up; there’s stuff to do. In reality there is likely not any stuff to do; someone else will probably do it but you will do it because it is a way to get back that control that you have lost, that was ripped away.
When you find out exactly what happened you will be so angry. You will never have felt a depth of anger like that and you will finally understand the meaning of the word ‘loathing’ as that it was you will do. You will loathe this person, this monster, who took your Dad, your Daddy, away from you. It will not matter at all that people will try and placate you about this man; about how he likely feels terrible and how he will likely never be able to forgive himself; you will simply think that that’s his penance although even that is not enough. You will wonder if you have lost the capacity for forgiveness, and then you will wonder if you care for having lost that ability, because who cares: you lost your dad. (Later, much later, you will realise that this was just any other man who made a mistake; there was nothing monstrous in his actions aside from the fact that he took your Dad away although completely by human error.)
You will wonder if you have the capacity, the strength, the bravery to get through. You will be unable to picture a future without them there, you will not want to picture a future without them. (Soon you will realise that getting through is not about strength or bravery, it is simply about putting one foot in front of the other and waking up the next day; that is not being courageous it is simply surviving.)
You will wonder if you could have changed things, about whether or not in some way it was somehow your fault; perhaps it was some sort of karma for being an a******e for the majority of your life, or maybe if you had simply made him a cup of tea or actually ensured you went up the stairs and actually said goodbye, or maybe if you had discouraged his hobby instead of encouraging it or… The blame you put on yourself will pile up, and you will not realise that everyone around you is doing the same thing as well, and none of you really think it will make a difference. Maybe it’s the deep rooted guilt from being an Irish Catholic family once upon a time; maybe it’s just human nature. Whatever it is it will not help. It will not, but you will continue because you cannot punish your lost one as they are gone, and you cannot punish the one who took them; that is not your job. There is no way you would even think of punishing those around you as you can see their suffering, so instead you will punish yourself and think it’s the only way you will be able to get through. You will be wrong, but that is something you will learn in the future. A long way away in the future.
You will worry you will forget about them, or that somehow you will let their memory down or somehow disappoint them. Even if you are not religious you think this, despite the fact that this makes no sense with your own beliefs. You will, nonetheless, continue to have these worries. You will never, in reality, forget and instead it will be the complete opposite. You will think of them when you wake, when you’re making yourself a cup of tea, when you’re on the opposite side of the world. You will even remember them in your sleep, your dreams will be plagued constantly. At some points, some very low points, you will wish you had forgot because currently remembering seems all that more painful. You will then punish yourself for feeling like that.
There will be very low points. Very very low. You will, at some stages, resent your own family. You will wonder why they’re not there for you in the same way you feel you are there for them. (You will realise later on that this is because you didn’t allow them to be there for you in that same way.) Some of your family will not talk about it at all, like it never happened and this will, at your lowest points, get you so mad you will feel you could explode. (You will later realise that this is their way of coping, and is indeed a generational thing.) You will wonder why you feel so alone. (You will realise that other people simply grieve in different ways, and to expect them to understand you when you’re so busy running around trying to keep everyone happy is impossible, and very unfair.)
At your highest points you will be able to make jokes and talk freely and people will see you at this point and assume it is your new normal, that you’re over it and you got better. That it all got better.
In reality it will not ‘get better’ and you will probably hate it when people say this to you, no matter how long ago that loss was. It will not get better in any way. You will have still lost someone you loved beyond words too suddenly too quickly too young and without saying goodbye. You will, however, simply have to get used to your new normal. Your new life. Which is missing one big puzzle piece but that will simply be the way your new picture looks. People who meet you after will not realise that this is your new normal but those who have known you, those who mourned with you, will also look for that missing piece. They will wince with you when there’s an accidental mention, or shed a tear when they see a picture or a thing that reminds them of your loss.
Grief is shared. Maybe there are some people who grieve alone, as nobody else lost that person, but this must be rare. Your loss, of that (brilliant stupid funny clever sappy) person was shared, and other people grieve with you. Not in the same way, but when you realise that a whole community is feeling that loss, a whole group of people around the area, the country, the land mass, the world… Your pain may ease. If so many grieve then it can’t have been just you that thought the world of that person, and to be able to share that load, that burden through the medium of talking or communicating in any way, it’s better. Grieving alone. Thinking that your grief is the most important is part of the process I’m sure, but it’s not healthy to keep that up. Of course you are entitled to your grief, and it’s likely that you are one of those that misses them the most, but to isolate yourself because of that is not good and alienates yourself from being able to share that burden through talking with other people, sharing memories and silent tearful hugs. Maybe one day you will be able to get through your grief alone, but doing that is not healthy or good for anyone, and you may discover at the end of that journey that you have lost more than one person.
You will, of course, feel alone. And anxious. And depressed. On your very very worst days you will wish you went with them. Those days will be the darkest and those are when you need a warm cup of tea and a cat to cuddle. And people to talk to and share moments with. Those days should become rarer as times goes on, but they will pop up every now and again, seemingly random, and shock you and scare you and you will cry on and off that whole day. It will scare your friends to see you so vulnerable, as only yesterday you were making inappropriate jokes about your loss and talking easily. It will, you will learn later, be simply part of the process, and will never stop. You should, if not for your own sake but for those around you, seek out some help. There is always help, and indeed you will be very surprised just how willing everyone around you is to listen. Talking to people who knew your person can help, yes, but that often can become a two-sided grieving session, and sometime it will do you some good to talk to someone who did not know them, someone who only knows you or indeed a professional listener who does not even really know you at all. They will be able to help you. They will.
You will have sudden splurges of anger. People will talk to you like they understand and, on your bad days, this will not help you. You will feel it bubbling over but, because you are you, you will not take it out on them because that would help nobody. However your preferred method of crying alone in the shower after those moments does not help much either but hey-ho. You have a right to be angry, or at least you do at this stage. You should try to develop and work on that, but to feel angry when someone talks to you like they understand when they’ve never walked this path, or say they have because they lost an uncle’s step-cousin who lived in Australia and who they never even knew until they died – that’s pretty galling. It’s harsh, but those who have lost someone, when they’re still grieving and figuring things out, don’t need that sort of patronisation. Believe me, if you are reading of this and have done it; it does not help. You may think it does because you are trying to connect, but simply saying that you’ve never had such a thing happen to you is enough. Say that, and then give your support but leave it there.
You will start to wonder when is the appropriate time to stop grieving? When do you stop crying at night? When will it stop feeling like a punch in the stomach every time you hear (a motorbike, someone blowing their nose, a man’s unabashed laugh) something that reminds you of your person. This, you will eventually realise, is not something you can choose. Maybe one day it will stop hurting but that day is not soon for (me, anyone) you.
You will wish you believed. In a god, some sort of deity. Maybe it would help you somehow to think that they’re being looking after by some caring sentient being. You will realise, as you subconsciously always knew, that faith is a gift you were not given, and it is not one they had either. It may cushion the blow for some, but for you the preferred choice would always be that they were here with you rather than some omniscient being. Your person would probably just sass them and make an inappropriate joke anyway.
One day you will realise that six months have passed and wonder how on earth you managed, and you will realise that maybe simply getting up and putting one foot in front of the other was bravery. You will realise that that you have to make something of your days and do things and projects that fill those times up. Painting a wall, redecorating a room, going travelling, buying a colouring book, going back to university… they make your day more than simply more time without them there.
One day you will graduate and you will have managed to get there without them, and that will be a hell of an achievement. They will not watch you flap around in the graduation gown and laugh with your friends all hyper and excited to have got through. They will not be there to watch you walk down the aisle as a newly married woman (as they knew they would not be walking you up it due to a feminist rant when you were 16).
And then one day you will be holding your first niece or nephew, and hopefully one of the wee boys will have their name, and realise that death is simply the leaving of a physical body’s corporeal capabilities, and actually as long as you allow it they will never leave. They will live on in the grandchildren they never got to meet, and maybe they’ll have his long legs or his mechanical capabilities or more importantly his hatred of unneeded violence or his moral compass. You will be able to tell them that they inherited their strange monkey toes off of their auntie who got them off their Grampa and even though they look weird at least they’ll be able to pick up the remote without using their hands. And when they laugh I bet you they will look like them, or sound like them, and that is what loss becomes; finding where they have gone, where they have ended up, who they live on in. You will be able to see in your brothers the parenting skills (or lack of) that they used and it will be bittersweet but it will make you smile.
That is where peace can be found, in the sharing of memories and love when remembering them, and that is where you will find them again.
You can read Christies original blog at http://creatingchristie.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-most-challenging-year-so-far.html?view=snapshot#!/2016/01/grief-loss-and-how-i-got-through-how-i.html