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.