Grief Has No Manners
Death comes to us all. It’s the only certainty in the craziness of life, and the one thing that connects us. No matter what we look like, where we live, how often we meditate or work out, at some stage, each of us will exit the physical world as quickly as we arrived.
From a logical perspective, we know that death is not a lottery. If we talk about it, we don’t increase our chances of being chosen. But despite all of this, there is still so much silence surrounding death, quite literally. People often say nothing to someone who is grieving, for fear of saying the wrong thing. We all navigate our way through the trenches of loss and grief at some stage in our lives, so it’s important to talk about it and reach out to others. Even if we don’t get the words entirely right, it’s better than silence. Here’s my experience of grief, I’m sure many of you can relate.
When my father died seven months ago, the words “I’m sorry, your father passed away thirty minutes ago shot through my body like a bolt of lightning in the sky. Naively, even though I knew his death was imminent, deep down there was part of me that thought I was immune or that somehow it would never quite reach me. As my heart began to open so wide with vulnerability it physically ached, I responded by momentarily closing myself down and hiding my emotions from the world.
Unfortunately, the shock is just the beginning. Then grief slowly sets in, in all its glory. But it can be difficult to express. Sometimes we’re so disconnected from ourselves that we can’t even feel our pain, or just don’t want to; we’re numb. It’s no surprise therefore that releasing our grief gets missed off the to-do list altogether. But it always finds us in the end.
Since my father passed, I have realised, yet again, that grief has no timescales, rules, guidelines or manners. I liken grief to that person who unexpectedly knocks at the door, invites themselves in and then doesn’t know when to leave. Grief continues to outstay its welcome. It catches us off guard, sneaks up behind us and pushes us over when we least expect it. We can be laughing one moment, but then a song, smell or memory can trigger us to burst into tears, curled up in the foetal position the next.
No matter how old someone was when they died or how relieved we are that they’re free from suffering, the physical presence of someone is what’s missed most. Yes, time does heal, in its own way, but we never forget. We just learn to live without the person we love. However, knowing that others care and understand makes all the difference to our experience and the grief we feel.
Despite the pain that death and grief cause, I wouldn’t change any of it. I am grateful that I was able to tell my father that I loved him and say goodbye. I’m thankful that he heard my children’s voices one last time. Complete strangers, friends and family reached out to me, hugged me, supported me and helped me in ways they may never know. For them, I have deep gratitude. You see, even in death, there is always a blessing, and recognising this helps us to move through our grief much easier.
So as much as we prefer to ignore the subject of death, we desperately need to discuss it. By doing this, the fear of our own mortality is also lessened. We think we have forever, but we don’t. Life is for living now. Right now. In knowing that the only guaranteed moment is this one, what would you like to change in your life? Maybe you could honour the memory of those you have loved and lost by channelling your pain to live the life you truly deserve, that’s what they would wish for you too.