Grief is so human and it hits everyone at one point or another, at least, in their lives. If you love, you will grieve, and that’s just given
– Kay Redfield Jamison
I thought I knew what grief was.
The loss of family pets over the years and the death of my Grandfather when I was twelve years of age demonstrated to me what it felt like to miss someone who was never coming home. But in later life, whilst negotiating my way through the loss of my own daughter, I have come to realise that loss and grief – although irrevocably linked – can sometimes be felt in different ways.
Some forms of loss can bring with them a certain sadness that, depending on when it hits you during your lifetime, can fade to a memory that is easier to deal with in time (like when I grieved in my childhood for my hamster, Gizmo. Or when I was nine years old and sat through the funeral service of a school friend who had died too young, crying at the shock of learning that death can also come knocking on the doors of the young and quietly wishing that I had asked him to play with us more in class).
Loss can come in so many forms. Grief too.
But a loss that changes your life forever and impacts you so greatly that you know life can never be the same. . . .
That, for me, is where true grief really begins.
So, why don’t we talk about the impact of grief?
We mourn the loss of our loved ones and we speak about them often. But rarely do we talk about the impact their loss has had on our lives. We don’t seem to speak about just how hard it can sometimes be to cope with the grief we have been left with in their abscence or the changes that grief can have on us as individuals and our lives.
I can, of course, only speak from my own experience – that of my daughter who was stillborn.
Losing my daughter before she had the chance to live does, in a way, make my grief different from someone who has lost a loved one who was part of their life for a lot longer. But we still mourn the memory of a person. We still think about the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘could have been’s’.
Grief has had a huge impact on my life. Probably more so than anything else that has happened in my thirty two years of living it. Because grief is the one thing that has spilled out over every single aspect of my life and no matter how hard I have tried, it can’t be seperated from how I now live. It can be managed, yes. But the stain that grief has left on my life doesn’t come out in the wash.
Grief has affected my every day living. It has affected some friendships that I had with people. I have realised that some people don’t know what to say to somebody who is grieving. Some people stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing. But I think the worst thing to do for someone who is grieving is to surround them with silence. Talk to them. Even if it’s just about the weather. Let them know that they are not alone. And if they want to, talk about the person they have lost and find yourself lost with them and their memories. . .
Grief saw me leaving my job and starting anew. Grief saw my mental health affected on a level I never thought possible. I never knew until the first night we came home from the hospital without Evalyn what it felt like to be afraid to fall asleep. I was so scared of having to wake up to my new reality that I tried my hardest to stay awake for as long as humanly possible. And when you do wake? That realistaion, that outpouring of grief is so consuming you genuninely wonder how on earth you will get through the day ahead. Or sadly, even if you want to.
Grief has meant that I now have new dates in my calendar that are put aside for me to feel ‘sad’, whether I want to or not. I now have Evalyn’s birthday, what would have been Evalyn’s due date and consequently Evalyn’s funeral date forever marked down as days where I need to be wary of my grief. And if I don’t speak about my ongoing battle with grief, how will you know that when that day comes and I am quieter than usual, you haven’t actually done anything to upset me. I am just living that day between the present and the past.
So, let’s talk about grief.
Let’s talk about the way in which it can affect an individual. Let’s be more open about our feelings. Let us try to be there for people who are suffering and let them be there for you too. Unfortunately, grief affects us all. It is something that nobody can escape from because at one time in our life, we will all find ourselves having to face it head on whilst praying that we are strong enough to do so.
It takes only but a moment of time to ask someone how they are feeling. It takes only a moment to make someone feel less alone in their sorrow.
To anyone who has lost a loved one. To the parent who has lost a baby or a child. To the person who has lost a mother, father, sister, brother. An aunt, uncle, niece or nephew. To the person who has lost a friend. To the person whose loss is so significant, you find the empty space weighing you down. To the person who woke up today not realising that you would end your day without them. To the person who has woken up today facing yet another anniversary to get through. To the person who still cries at song lyrics that bring back memories. To the person who strokes the fading edges of a photograph because that is the closest you can be to them now.
To all the people with heavy hearts.
Grief may make us feel alone.
Just know that you never are.