There has been a lot of grief in our lives recently.
Grief is a demanding emotion. It asks a lot of you. It doesn’t accept that ‘real life’ is happening all around you and you are still expected to be a part of it. it doesn’t accept that time moves on. It keeps pulling you backwards into a past that is behind a glass you can’t move through but are constantly pressing up against.
Grief is an absence and a presence all at the same time. It fills your days with holes to be navigated around and things you walk, smack bang into.
Grief is not just sadness. It’s fury and resentment and impatience and nostalgia. It’s not just emotional. It’s sickness and shaking and aches and a thousand ants crawling under your skin.
Grief is terror and boredom all mixed up together in a hamster wheel that never stops squeaking, that keeps you awake all night and makes your days foggy with exhaustion.
And it can be strangely beautiful and full of tiny joys that lift you up and make you part of something bigger and which hurt like the devil but which remind you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It constantly reconnects you to life to be lived, even if you don’t want it to.
Grief is not a ‘thing’. Grief is a lived experience.It is a complex, often lonely journey that people don’t want to talk about because it hurts and it’s awkward and there never seem to be the right words. It seems shameful not to just be able to get over yourself and be ‘normal’, even though you will never be ‘normal’ like that again, because grief marks you out and ages you and forces you to walk a different path into the future than the one you were so sure of before it derailed you.
And grief is not just about people we have lost. Although that is one of the rawest forms it takes.Grief is about lives we didn’t live for ourselves, choices we made that took us to places we didn’t want to go to, things we lost along the way.
And grief is not linear. We are not sad one day and less sad the next. It ebbs and flows like the tide. It can disappear for weeks and then we can find ourselves sucked under again. Our life experiences can crack open old griefs we papered over, people long gone, moments from the far past that rise up to meet us.
And I think it’s time we talked about it. It’s time we made room for it. It’s time we started to figure out a language for it instead of hiding it because we do not feel adequately equipped or we don’t want to upset people. Because our silence is not normal. Our pretending to be fine is not healthy. Our filling our days with ‘doing’ to avoid the pain of ‘being’ is not helpful.
And we need to make not just new words, but new stories for this stuff. We need to start using words to create the paths to help us out of the darkness and sadness. We need stories to fill the holes and populate the shadows. We need to talk our way out of the worst pain into a healing and remembrance of the best of us and what we have lost, because as the great Terry Pratchett (GNU) said.
‘Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?’