grief 101: for a friend…

Sometimes tears still take me by surprise, but I look back at the full ferocity of my grief as a far away country.

Now I can laugh at the time when I lied and said my ten-day-dead dad was fine because I didn’t have the strength to tell even one more person. I joke about throwing a temper tantrum over the trainers I couldn’t return when I had more anger on hold than I knew what to do with.

I laugh but still remember, still feel those bad days in colour.

Recently, I heard from an old friend that her father had died a month back. We were talking online, on chat. I could type out a hug, firm it up with caps and brackets, but I wanted to be there to put my arms around her. I wanted to go and make a cup of tea, to gift her warmth, to take a moment to gather up my scattered thoughts and patch them into something useful. 

After a the death of someone you love, the news of someone else’s bereavement is something different than before. It hangs heavier. I felt a hard heart tug, a remembering, an empathy that rang deep blue.

In that connection there’s a temptation to be the ‘been there, done that’ friend, to talk rather than listen, to forget that every loss is as different and everyone treads their path down different turning ways.

We spoke for just a few minutes but I still have her in my heart. This is what I wish I’d had time to say. This is what I didn’t know how to say…

I wish I could spare you, and yet maybe I wouldn’t even if I could. I’ve learned too much. I love deeper now than I even knew how to before. I think the world is brighter for having been broken. That will make no sense right now….but it doesn’t need to.

Feel what you will and be damned with anyone who tells you otherwise.

When you cannot bare another day, just get through the hour. When you cannot bare another hour, make it through a minute. This time will pass. Just hold on, go on, hang on, until it does.

When you know what might help you feel at least a little better, ask for it, even if it is chocolate, or a movie, or the lawn mowing. There are probably people who are desperate to be there for you with no clue what to do. Make it easier for them, so that it can be easier for you.

Be gentle with yourself: snivel when you need to, sleep when it takes you, eat so you still have strength left to scream and throw things if you really want to.

The world will not end if you cry in public, go to work with puffy eyes, or sob like a choked cat (even though no one ever sounds like that when they cry in movies).

There may be times when grief feels like a part you have to play, without knowing your lines or rehearsing. But being real about what you feel might just be the bravest thing ever you do, even if it rattles teacups. You might just find you’re someone inspirational, maybe even more than you were before.

Take happiness when it comes. Accept the little joys that come like windfalls in the tempest, and enjoy those moments with as little guilt as you can manage not to muster.

Laughter comes at the strangest moments. (I laughed out loud as I stood beside my father’s coffin, just because I couldn’t believe it was him. I told myself they’d done a swap). The giddy bubbles can feel a bit too close to madness but they heal, purge, purify, and life is still life – silly, stupid, messy, funny.

You may feel a little nuts at times. Other people around you may also be going quietly (or not so quietly) crazy. You may even be doing it all out sync with one another and making each other even crazier. Take deep breaths, try to forgive as much as you would like to be forgiven. The clouds will clear. You will see eye to eye again. You might even find you’ve grown closer than you ever were before.

You are strapped to a roller coaster and right now you can’t get off. It might be gentler than you expected, or it could take you higher and lower, faster than you ever expected to go. But, however long it takes, or wherever it takes you, your love will still be there at the end when you get off and find your feet again.

You are not on your own. You may feel it but you’re not. Promise.

The dead don’t need to be perfect. Remember the person you loved for who they were.

There is no compliment in mourning forever. Repeat that and keep going. Keep moving on.

You won’t believe me (I wouldn’t have believed you), but parts of this are going to be beautiful.

Don’t miss the magic because of ‘should have, could have, ought to’. This is both a beginning and an end. Let it be what it needs to be.

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19 Responses to grief 101: for a friend…

  1. L – your use of words to relate emotion, the language of the soul is remarkable, I hope your friend reads this, I hope anyone who looses a loved one reads this, I hope you find solace in your own words…. – Peter

  2. Greeneyes says:

    My father passed away 37 years ago… A friend of mine lost hers on Thursday… I also couldnt “be there” and sent the well documented hug…..I understood every word in your post, how incredibly timed….and well done…..

  3. I am going to save this and (with your permissions) send it as a condolence note when necessary. I couldn’t say it with your poetry. I feel, and have felt, the emotions but haven’t put it into words. Bless you.

    • Dear Talk to Me, I would be honoured if my words can bring any little bit of comfort. I think we have all had that experience of wanting desperately to help but not being quite able to find the right words… x

  4. Kathy says:

    Great post! I can relate to so much of what you said. Death of a loved one changes us in so many ways. Yes, as you so elegantly wrote, when someone we know loses a loved one, we want to be there, do more than we could or would have before we experienced our loss, because we have a deeper understanding of what they are experiencing. I smiled when you wrote about crying in public. I cried so much during the first year of my mom’s death, mostly in private. But I wasn’t fooling anyone about the depth of my grief or how sad I was. I lost it before church one day, tears running down my face, because I didn’t see the announcement that the flowers were in memory of my mom for her birthday (my bulletin was missing the insert). Tears still come to my eyes when I speak of my mom at times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. A really wonderful post – which I am going to reblog, because more people should read it!

  6. Jane Thorne says:

    L, Grandfathersky (Peter) directed me here and I am glad he did. Your eloquence is magic. Keep writing and I am sending a hug to you – Jane

  7. Was directed here through Laurel’s Reflections. Just lost two in the last week … one a relative who had estranged herself from the family … another a dear friend but impossible love who I had to distance myself … so these words really resonated with me; ‘…every loss is … different and everyone treads their own path down different turning ways.’ Blessings, Diane

  8. Ruth says:

    Thank you for this post. The confidence in your words is comforting. My loss is 20 months old, and reading some of the wisdom here, I realize I have more healing to do. I don’t want time to pass, I don’t want peace or comfort, I want him to still be alive. I’ve seen beauty in the grief, but I still feel numb to much of the world. It’s like there’s a fog separating me from things that used to move me. Your line…. No compliment in mourning forever…. That’s what I needed to hear today. I imagine my dead friend holding my hand over that one… I tell him, l’ll stop mourning if you stick around for a while. Anyway…. Sorry for the tangent. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Dear Ruth, thank you for reading and for commenting – it didn’t seem at all like a tangent to me! I don’t feel anywhere near done either – at odd moments I find myself in tears – but I do know I’ve come a long way. In a sense this post was kind of my list of things I try to hold myself too since personally I am a great believer in choosing things and I think we often underestimate our own capacity to shape what we feel even though in the short term things feel totally overwhelming…

  9. Marianne says:

    Wow – thank you so much for this post. They are exactly the words I have been wanting (and desperately needing) to hear from a friend. My friends (thankfully) have not experienced the loss I have – so I can not expect it from them – this level of understanding. They are quiet, afraid it seems, of my sadness. And that is fair enough. So thank you – for being so brave and for opening your heart about your loss and what you know of grief. You have just helped me through another day, and many more.

    • Dear Marianne, I am sorry to hear you’re in a place where you needed to read this but glad it was a little help. The main reason I started to write this blog was out of frustration with all I felt I couldn’t say because I was so occupied being polite, saying what I was meant to.. and I found so much comfort here and reading other people’s blogs. May be some of my early posts might be of interest to you to – check them out if you get chance. Wishing you strength for a day at a time x

  10. JJ says:

    I can’t believe I missed reading this post. I love it! Can I repost to mine?

  11. Seadog says:

    Thank you so much for posting this.
    It is a piece full of comfort, and advice, but also full of the hurt you still feel.
    There is so much that you have written that could have come straight from my pen.

    My dad died in 1981 from a brain tumour, he was taken il and died in less than 2 weeks.
    It took me years to be able to talk about him or think about him with out bursting in to tears ( very embarrassing in a crowded pub with your girlfriend and mates there watching ), but at least I had the chance to tell him how I felt and to say my goodbyes though I suspect he didn’t hear / understand what I was saying at the time.
    The tears would come with explosive suddeness, all consuming with their ferocity.

    Now I’m dealing with the loss of my Mum.
    She died in July last year. She was 80 years old and was starting to reach that time in her life when her independence was going and she would need a little bit of looking after.She was recuperating after heart surgery and my wife and I went on holiday ( to ready ourselves for the oncoming struggle we thought we were going to have with mum and her wishes to live on her own in her own house.

    Sadly we had only been away for a few days when she had a fall, and again less than 2 weeks later she died, strangely enough almost 30 years to the day from my father.
    This time though, I didn’t get to speak to her, to tell her all the things I wanted to, to tell her I loved her, and I was going to miss her so so much.

    I can talk about her without losing it completely ( though sometimes I get very close), but I still feel her loss deeply, and as the festive season grows closer the emotions become more intense.
    When things get really on top of me I read this poem.
    It’s called Death Means Nothing All, by Henry Scott Holland.
    I hope it helps you too when those times of grief are almost too much to bear

    Death is nothing at all.
    It does not count.
    I have only slipped away into the next room.

    Nothing has happened.
    Everything remains exactly as it was.
    I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.

    Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

    Call me by the old familiar name.

    Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.

    Put no difference into your tone.

    Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

    Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.

    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

    Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
    Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

    Life means all that it ever meant.
    It is the same as it ever was.

    There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
    What is this death but a negligible accident?
    Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

    I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.

    All is well.
    Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
    One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
    How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
    **************************
    I so hope this is true.
    Thanks again for your advice and your honestyin your feelings.
    I know I’m not on my own, but just sometimes it’s easy to forget.
    I have a feeling I will be back to read this post again.
    Thinking of you
    love n hugs xxx

  12. brenner1543 says:

    I’ve just come across your blog yesterday and your honest depiction of grief is so comforting to read. This post is wonderful. You have put into words what I have tried so many times to say within my own writing. Writing is the only semblance of peace I can find in this brutal life I’ve been forced into now so it is nice to see someone finding that same thing through the power of words.

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