Working through grief – what I want you to know

working through grief illustration

I try hard to be positive, but that should never mean lying. So I’m going to be honest here and tell you that this week has been bloody awful.                   

In amongst it all there have been plenty of positives, and I know just how lucky I am to live the life I lead. But underpinning all the lovely things, there’s been a horrible, desperate emptiness that I couldn’t ignore.

I wrote recently in my last positivity diary post and in my newsletter, that I had lost someone dear to me. That I was finding healthy mechanisms to cope with the grief and my emotions. And that’s still true. But I wonder if perhaps, unbeknownst to me, the grief hadn’t fully taken root.

It wasn’t until I was confronted with the physical reality of death at the funeral earlier this week, and saw the coffin in front of me, and saw a mother have to say goodbye to her own daughter, and a husband choked with sorrow, that the truth all suddenly felt horribly real.

It was a beautiful service, the church filled to the brim, with heart-felt tributes, a lot of hugs, more tears, and some wonderful hymns. As we gulped and gasped our way through “How Great Thou Art”, I had to marvel in wonder at the incredible hope that Christians carry with them, still able to sing God’s praises despite being in the midst of utter despair. I count myself as a Christian too and I love God, but right now I feel confused, and angry. How could it be this loving, strong, incredible woman’s time to go? None of those adjectives are really sufficient to describe the person she was.

I’ve also felt a lot of guilt, wishing I’d gone down to visit in these last months, wishing I’d picked up the phone instead of relying on my mum (whose friend it was that died). Wishing I hadn’t lived in denial for so long, yet still wanting even now to deny what’s happened.

My dad drove us back from the funeral through dark skies, as torrential rain bounced off the windows. When we got home I burrowed under my old duvet and looked for things online to read about grief, things that might make sense. Until finally it was time to go, and I was boarding the plane back to Leeds, back to normal life and all the distraction and comfort of it.

Back at school, a class full of six and seven year olds has been the perfect tonic to overthinking – there’s no actual time to think after all when one has cut their knee, one is crying because they’ve fallen out with their best friend, one needs your help to spell a word and one wants to tell you what they ate for tea last night.

But as lovely as all that distraction is, I have to remember that sometimes I need to confront these feelings. To sit in the sadness and process them, the way I’m doing now writing this to you.

I’m not sure that we really talk about grief very much in this country, in contrast to how much better we’ve got at talking about some aspects of mental health for example. I suppose often it’s a very private thing; I’m not much good myself at articulating it in person. I recently read a quote that said “Grief is like living two lives. One is where you pretend everything is alright, and the other is where your heart silently screams in pain”, which felt very apt.

Because sometimes you do have to pretend everything’s alright in order to simply function, but I think for at least some of the time it helps to talk. And that’s partly why I’m sharing all this now, because it’s helpful for my own thought process but also hopefully helpful for someone else, to know they’re not alone in how they feel.

I thought Sophie Cliff summed it up very eloquently when she wrote in a post about her own grief “I am still constantly amazed about how little is written about grief in an honest way, as opposed from a professional perspective, particularly in this country. When you’re experiencing it, it can feel incredibly lonely, so I really wanted to try and contribute to the conversation in a productive way.”

So this is my contribution and honest account of the last week, in an effort to expose my grief to the light, and not totally hide away from it. I hope if you’re working through grief, whether raw or somewhat embedded, that you’re able to share with someone how you feel. And that if this isn’t you, you’re able to be there for the person who needs it, whether that’s in the form of a hug, a card or a listening ear. We’re not alone, and there is always, always joy and light to come.

Helpful resources:

The Samaritans – 116 123
Coping with bereavement
Support with bereavement

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