The Rawness of Grief

The real trouble in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Baz Luhrman

I’m writing this in honour of a friend who is today grieving the death of her 27-year-old son. I’m truly sad to hear of his passing. I thought about that intense emotional pain felt when hearing traumatic news. How devastating, and numbing, it is at the same time. How all-consuming it feels. And I don’t want her to have to be going through that, anyone for that matter.

I have never had to deal with the loss of a child and may I never have to. My mind can’t even go there. I cannot and won’t be able to understand how traumatic that would be. I can only empathise with her at this time. When Harry was diagnosed with a terminal illness then died, I had moments when my mind would forget for a moment but be jolted very quickly back to reality. That this was real and the loss felt unbearable. Now many years on I know that deep deep sadness and pain lessens, but I also know it’s a very slow passing of time. There are days you feel it will never get easier. Even now all these years later I sometimes say to myself, I can’t believed this happened to us. That Harry actually died. That he is no longer here anymore.

Initially I would feel like everyone elses lives seemed happy. Like every happy couple were out shopping, laughing, smiling, holding hands on a Saturday morning doing their shopping. It was like they were jumping out in the crowd at me. It at times felt unbearable to see. I was so envious of them all. Envious of their smiles and carefree hearts.

The house although I had three young children living there with me still it felt so quiet. Harry’s presence noticeably gone. I felt so alone in the world despite being surrounded by family and friends, like non of them really knew my pain. They were grieving for a friend, brother or son. Me I was grieving a husband and father of my children.  You grieve the relationship, you had with the person, it’s an individual thing.

It is around six weeks after that fateful day that we truly feel the permanency of loss. The funeral is over and the intense messages of kindness fade slowly, the flowers of condolence wilted and long gone. This is when people’s lives start to return to normal and yet yours feels it will never be normal again and the depth of sadness you feel at this time cannot be described.

It hurts so bad you ache. You find yourself bursting into tears at the mere thought of them. You want it not to be true but you know it is. I cannot recommend grief support groups or professional counselling enough. It certainly helped me. It helped me talk through my sadness, my fears, my anger at what had happened, my loneliness, my resentments and helped me find perspective. It validated that what had happened was traumatic and that it all wasn’t fair. It was someone to express the emotions I couldn’t express to others.

It’s important to allow yourself to grieve, to cry and be sad. It’s a healthy response. If you don’t grieve now it will come out at some stage. Do it and find some peace in time. It’s as the children’s book, We’re going on a bear hunt by  Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury says, ‘we can’t go over it /we can’t go under/ oh no/ we’ve got to go through it!’ Lean on friends. They want to help. Your home will feel like an open book for quite some time so be prepared. You strangely lose your privacy for a while. People will feel the need to give you advice and maybe that’s what I’m doing here. Remember everyone generally means well but some are going to say some things you will certainly not relate to. So many people at the time and for a long time after said to me, you are lucky you have those three kids. I missed my husband terribly, I cried myself to sleep night after night. I at times only had 2 hours sleep and had to go to work. I had the total responsibility of raising three children alone and to navigate them through their grief, I was scared, afraid as to whether I could do it. At the time I was not feeling lucky. I certainly do now as they have helped me through this and he lives within them as well. I lost a husband you have lost a son, and that is nothing short of devastating for you.

Be kind to yourself, treat yourself to something that feels good. I had facials once a month. It relaxed and calmed me having someone gently touch my skin whilst I layed and listened to meditative music. That once a month, although a bit expensive was the best therapy for me. I wrote about this in The Art of Happiness

This is something I don’t discuss, I collected the ashes from the crematorium but I could not have them buried beneath his red rose-bush that sat in a row with other rose bushes encircling a beautiful shade tree. Although it’s a serene place he did not know those strangers he would be laid to rest next to. I took the ashes home. There no longer was a person, a body. Now only ashes in a plain box. I put them high in my wardrobe out of sight. For a while they sat there, and when I felt really sad and all alone, I would go into my walk-in-wardrobe, shut the door and think. It was as if he was there hearing my thoughts, just him and I, the world shut out. I can’t explain the peace I felt in that little messy space in those moments. The silence and peace, a divine peace. Grief is an individual thing. We all deal with it differently.

You change as a person, but you can become a better person because of it. Becoming bitter only makes you unhappy. Do things at you own pace. Leave his belongings until you feel you want to deal with it and not when people say you should. Momentary relief can be felt by holding a clothing item close that may still have their smell on it. Sometimes writing a journal helps get the pain out from within.

As time passes you get used to your new normal and you move forwards. One day you notice yourself feeling joy again, and surprised by its genuineness. You may be laughing, or smiling or even dancing and it hits you. This is real joy I feel. Initially you feel guilty for feeling genuine joy like its disrespectful to their memory, but don’t. It means you are in a healthy place in your life, that the sun is shining. You are in a  better place. His death wasn’t to cause you punishment for the rest of your life. He would want you to be happy, he loved you as you did him. The memories will never fade nor will the happiness and love he brought to your life. Those warm your heart and live on within forever. Nothing will ever be able to take that from you. That’s the footprint he has left on your path.

Love Lucy x

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