Friday, April 5, 2013

Knowing Grief.

There is a point, right at the beginning, when you find out someone you love has died, or is going to die where the grief is so raw and so deep that it is as if every piece of you has been stabbed with broken glass. That doesn't do it justice. It would be less painful to run through a sheet of glass than to experience that moment of knowing utter loss. I don't care if you are religious, if you have 'hope' that moment of knowing is a hurt beyond all things. You can't bear it - and yet you do. I don't know how. I do not know how I have borne it - three hideous times. It is incomparable, every part of you cries out - and yet it is senseless. There are no words for this level of distress. C. S Lewis comes close to giving it a voice in his book 'A Grief Observed' - but a hundred books, a million words couldn't capture the agony of those first few moments.

It doesn't last, perhaps it can't, perhaps your body simply can't endure that level of pain and shuts that part off. It comes back sometimes, but I don't think ever, quite, to the level of those first few moments of true abandonment. Sometimes I wonder if my emotions have been permenantly effected - the shock of losing my mother has left me with an extreme ability not to feel, to shut myself off from things. To walk away from compassion. It is a tendency I can recognise, that I have to monitor. I often allow myself to be walked over, to accept too much, to be too nice because if I am not I can speak without compassion and the regret of it later keeps me awake at night, long long after everyone else has moved on.

I have found that grief never leaves you. You can certainly be happy again, but there is never a point when you can truly say "I am over this." When I had my first child, I was shocked by how much it returned, not just for the empty place is the family photos, not just because my need for advise, for a bulwark was stronger than ever, but because I had a new understanding. I knew the utter terror of what it would feel like to leave my child. To abandon him to death. I knew exactly how she would have felt leaving me, helpless and choiceless and taken away. It was salt in a raw wound. The only possible thing that could have been worse is, if my son was taken from me. I know it, I have never experienced it and I thank God and touch every piece of wood available that I have not.

Do you think that people who have died watch over you? I don't know what I think. I have been luckier than I deserve on many occasions - as if I am being compensated for that early unnecessary loss. But feeling an actual presence... that is quite different. Recently though I had a moment when that first moment of grief took me, perhaps I cried out, I am not a loud person so it seems unlikely, but for a moment I didn't know who I was so it is possible. And I felt them, my mother, my recently lost grandparents, they were there. I knew that things would be okay, it didn't stop the pain, but it took the edge off. I haven't experienced that before or since. Very very occasionally, perhaps four or five times I have dreamed about my mother. Oh how I never want those dreams to end, oh how I long for them to come again - but they appear out of the blue and there is nothing I can do to hold onto them. I think I would live in my dreams if I could.

The other day I heard this interview with Maurice Sendak and I wept because I understood, and I knew every feeling when he said "and I miss you, and I will miss you, and I miss them." How I miss them!


  1. Oh my. I felt that with you :-(

    I believe your loved ones watch over you and I am sure you are doing yours proud x

    1. I certainly hope they do! Re. them being proud - it has taken me a long time to realise that for someone to be proud of you it doesn't necessarily mean you have to do what they would have done. It has removed a lot of guilt in my life, but made me lack direction. However I feel more comfortable about working out my own path now than I ever have before.