Today my hubby had some bad news. The mum of some of his very close childhood friends passed away in her sleep last night. She was still fairly young, in her mid 60’s. It was sometime early afternoon that he managed to get a hold of me, in between meetings, to tell me what had happened. I could hear in his voice that he was sad. He’s normally so happy go lucky and laid back in his personality and it was glaringly obvious that he was feeling all the feelings. As a kid and young adult, the hubby spent as much of his childhood in her home as he did his own. Hanging out after school and on weekends, getting into all kinds of mischief with her sons, their lives were so thoroughly linked. And now, just like that, she’s gone…
And to be honest, hearing this news put me in a funk for the rest of the afternoon. One thing I have learnt about myself over the years, is that my empathy levels kick into hyperdrive when hearing news about the passing of someone’s mother. Of course hearing news about loved ones passing away is never easy, but now as an adult, I understand the impact that losing a mum has. The consequences are more real. Knowing that, in this particular case, there are four sons and 11 grandchildren who are suffering in their grief today makes me extremely sad. Sad for the husband that found her after wondering why she hadn’t switched her alarm clock off this morning. Sad for the boys who won’t be able to turn to their mum ever again for advice and comfort. And so sad for the grandchildren – the littlies who will probably not remember their great times they shared with their grandma and the older ones who will remember and mourn her loss keenly. They’ve all taken their ticket and have boarded that train to Griefworld.
I was first introduced to the term Griefworld by Eden Riley who blogs at Edenland. Eden knows a thing or two about grief and if you like a blogger who will give you an honest and raw perspective on life, then I highly recommend her blog. I actually read Eden’s post a few months ago, where she actually describes the concept of Griefworld:
And Griefworld isn’t like Seaworld or Dreamworld. Nobody EVER buys a ticket to Griefworld. There’s lots of roller coasters in Griefworld. It has big gates you can’t escape, it’s not fun, there’s a sad gallery of old sepia fading photographs of the people we love, in Griefworld. We have to camp out and live there. You wave at your family, from a distance. Sometimes you can get a leave pass for a day here or there for no reason at all because grief has no logic but mostly, when the people we love the fiercest die? We live in Griefworld for a very, very long time.
Yes, Eden Riley, Yes!
For those of you who’ve been following me a little while, you’ll know that I’m no bleeding heart, so emotions like these aren’t second nature to me. Of course I understand that death is merely the cycle of life. Yep, I truly do get it. But there is something about hearing of another’s loss, when you’ve experienced loss yourself that makes you recognise a kindred. If you’ve been in the shitty position to have been there, you’ve no doubt felt the invisible tie that binds together those who have experienced loss too. I know I have. There is an instant understanding and empathy. A sorrow not only in reaction to the immediacy of death but also for what is yet to come. I’m talking about the acknowledgement of that longer term grief that will ultimately hone in on all of the things that the world and the future has lost now that a loved one has passed. It’s the recognition and agreement, albeit unspoken, that validates the feelings of being pissed off and angry at how ripped off we have all been – how ripped off the one who has died and the ones who have been left behind have been. The dreams that will never be fulfilled and futures never realised. Plans never achieved and goals that will never be reached. People never met and family that’s never going to be loved – it cuts both ways, for both the living and the dead. And sometimes it’s so overwhelming I just can’t comprehend it.
It’s often said, when talking of grief, that time heals the pain. I do not agree with this. I have never agreed with this. And although there have been many a time where I have smiled politely when this has been said and even muttered a socially acceptable reply in response on the inside I would be saying What the fuck do you know?
Many years ago, I came upon his quote which sums up the sentiment perfectly:
Yes, Rose Kennedy got it right, well at least in my experience. There is absolutely no question that time numbs and dulls the pain of losing a loved one. Life gets in the way, priorities change, emotions are hardened so that you can pretend like it never ever happened. Years may go by, feelings might be suppressed and facades may hide any sign of the turmoil that still exists. In my opinion and from recent experience, I am more convinced than ever that it never heals. Perhaps it’s a case of the more you shy away from it, the more it consumes you or perhaps it’s that with time, you’re forced to confront the demons you hide from. I’m not 100% sure. But what I do know, it becomes intrinsically ingrained in you and underpins so much of the person that you are.
Seventeen years on and I’m discovering that the grief continues to ripple under the surface, triggered by the most innocuous and random of things. Watching my girls grow, moving through life’s achievements, purging all of these thoughts and ideas in this blog and hearing of people losing loved ones – lately it seems like grief is always there. But there’s no question the impact it’s had on my world view. I have very particular opinions about how people treat (or mistreat) their mothers and even stronger views on the disgusting behaviour that some people display when having to manage the aftermath of death. Greed is an extremely ugly thing my friends, and death seems to bring it out in the worst way.
But I also believe that there’s something in the saying that you often meet your destiny on the road you’ve taken to avoid it. I’ve suppressed my grief for over a decade and am only now starting to unpack years of layers and look at me now. I’m writing again for the first time in a very very very long time. I’m putting it out there for people to see. Maybe this is a silver lining moment?
And I’ve really got to leave it there. It’s now time for me to get my sorry, dog-tired arse to bed – I’ve already blown my self imposed curfew of 10pm and if I do not get to bed I will wake up at 5.30am feeling shitty and needing copious amounts of caffeine to get through the day tomorrow as I continue my first week back at work after mat leave. My sincere apologies though for the brain dump and publishing such an unpolished post. I had fully expected to write another mundane and boring post about my mundane and boring day!
Before I scarper off though, indulge me a minute and take the time tonight to stop and really think about the impact that losing someone makes. Either of someone you’ve lost or if you’ve been lucky not to lose anyone, think about the impact of losing someone now. Really stop and be in that moment for a minute and think about what they’ve lost, what you’ve lost and then tell me it’s not overwhelming. We are clan-people, we exist in tribes and as a result it’s the people closest to us that ultimately shape and makes us who we are – even the dead ones.
Pay homage to those loved ones who are no longer here to share in your life for they live on in your memories, no question. And hug those dear to you a little closer the next time you see them because you never ever know when life will throw an unexpected curveball at you.
Thinking of our friends this evening. RIP Lone.
Have you discovered that the way you deal with grief has changed over time? Do you subscribe to the believe that time heals all wounds?