There aren’t a lot of fun things about grieving, in fact, in my experience, there aren’t any at all. That’s not to say that my life is now exclusively filled with sadness, but there is certainly a lot more darkness than there was before. For those of you who haven’t read my last blog post, my Mum died early in January this year. At the time of writing, it has been almost two months since she died.
One of the most interesting (and devastating) things about grief for me is how strange the timeline becomes. Everyone’s individual grief is different of course, but for me, the worst time is often around now. It’s the time that many of the online articles say you should be “getting over it”, the time that acquaintances stop asking if you’re okay, the time that people start expecting you to get back to real life. It’s also been the time that I have tended to need the most support and have not been able to access it.
I think that the modern day world has this weird stigma around grief, and that makes us want to move on with our lives as fast as possible. I know I have certainly been guilty of that in the past, but the reality is that the most common reaction for those closest to a person after they die is not grief but shock, no matter how expected the death is. Grief creeps in later when you start to notice the things that are now forever missing: the person’s hugs, their offers of reassurance, their advice.
But society has this expectation that the time of shock is much harder than the time of grief. It’s in those first few weeks that most people offer condolences and support and it’s when workplaces and schools are kindest about you missing days. That support is very necessary on a practical level, it takes time to organise will readings and funerals, not to mention calling people to tell them about the death, but for me, that support is needed so much more later, in the times when you are sitting by yourself with nothing to do but feel the pain of absence.
Grief can be unbelievably painful, and it’s made all the more so by the expectation to just get on with what you were doing with your life before your loved one’s death. I was asked the other day why I’m not doing more with my time right now, why I’m not trying to piece my life back together to how it was before I started caring for Mum. The answer is that most days my heart feels so broken that it’s a struggle to breathe, let alone manage a house and look for work. I may have been strong and relatively together in that first month, but it doesn’t mean that I am strong and together now that I’ve had the chance to truly feel the loss.
I would love to be able to share the journey of my grief on the blog, just to break down some of the stigma and misconceptions a little. I’d also like to hear from others about their stories of grief. How was your individual timeline? Did you feel like people expected you to feel better more quickly than you would have liked? I’m not sure whether this will shape up to be a big series of blog posts or maybe only a couple, but I am hoping to collate something that will be a helpful resource both to those suffering from grief and those supporting them.
Edit: I should point out, as quite a few people I know outside of the internet also read my blog, that I do still have a few amazing people who have continued to support me throughout this time and that I am very grateful to them.
Artwork by Merril Cook