Saturday, 13 September 2014

Observations on Grief

There are times when life tests us, when just getting through the day is a goal in and of itself. Trying not to block emotion, but at the same time trying to not let the tidal wave of feeling engulf us. I'm in that place right now and it is a strange, frustrating, educational and, at times, painful place to be. I'm making goals for myself, taking time to enjoy things, and giving myself permission to just feel what I need to feel without embarrassment or self-consciousness. This is what's been going on since my dad died two and half weeks ago from a heart attack.

That's a really weird sentence to write; "since my dad died two and a half weeks ago". It still doesn't seem real, and yet at the same time is painfully present and substantial. The funeral was held on Monday 8th September. It is officially the hardest day I have ever experienced but was also filled with comfort, laughs and companionship. A lot of my family were there from Scotland, people I haven't seen in years and - this will sound strange - it was lovely to see them. Obviously it would have been better to see them under happier circumstances, but it was still really great to spend some time with them. Combined with the wonderful support from my man, my friends and even complete strangers, I have experienced grief and loss as something that shows the best in people. All the same I recognise that this is not everyones experience and can only send my deepest condolences and love to those without this small measure of comfort.

Death is an odd process to go through. Time moves at a glacial pace. You're very conscious of how people are talking to you. And then there's watching things unfold in a third-person perspective. In fact all the worst bits have felt like this, from the leader of the resuscitation team telling me that dad hadn't made it, to seeing dad lying on the gurney, and even sitting in the funeral home with mum making the arrangements. Everything seems to have settled into first-person again now, and time doesn't seem as slow, which I guess is a sign of progress. I already know it's going to take at least two years before the memories of all this move from the forefront of my mind. Or, in the words of one of my cousins, who lost her dad five years ago:

"The first year is a living hell. The second is just hell. Then it all kind of settles down."

I also know the worst thing would be to rush it, or to suppress any of the feelings that grief will inevitably throw at me. Likely at the worst moments. I cried petting the cat the other day. She was oblivious, content with my neck scratching skills. And yet I have managed to write this post without any tears. Weird.

My final observation about all this: media and entertainment can be treacherous bedfellows when you're mourning. I have not been able to listen to music, as so much of it is about losing someone, broken hearts, "since you've been gone" or a whole other range of phrases that mean something else entirely to the recently bereaved. Films and TV are also dangerous; many make jokes or plots around heart attacks, hospitals, death, coffins, autopsies, ghosts, and funerals. All of these subject matters are banned for me right now, so I'm sticking to historical dramas (The Borgias is amazing!), science-fiction, fantasy, and anything not set in the modern world. One of the first films I watched since this happened was Serenity, which may seem an odd choice given someone dies at the end (yeah, yeah, spoilers). But funnily enough it gave me some comfort and a line has stayed with me through all of this, which still feels like the best description of where I am in the process:

"She's torn up plenty, but she'll fly true."

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