Saturday, 1 February 2014

The nature of grief

This is a strange time of year. Even 22 years on, I still go through the mental journey of the run-up to my husband's final illness and death. Cold weather, dark evenings, snowdrops...all these things remind me of that terrible time.

And yet we survived.

In thoses 22 years, I have learnt three things. Firstly, that grief is like labour (as in childbirth). The pain comes in crashing waves, but there are lulls in between; periods of calm, and sometimes even of optimism. At first, these waves come thick and fast; unbearable in their fierceness and their sheer physical pain. But gradually, they begin to tail off, become manageable, and while they never go, they are just a part of who I am. As for the lulls, I am convinced that it is the lulls that make grief survivable.  And while there's no baby at the end of it all, there is something like hope.

Secondly, as someone once said, over time grief turns from a wound into a scar; still there, still very much a part of me, but no longer so raw or so obvious.

Thirdly, love is love, in the present tense. You never stop loving someone who has died. I find it sad when people speak of their love in the past tense. I loved him, and I still love him. Why would I not? But my life goes on (in no small part, thanks to my wonderful second husband), and he lives on  in all of us, especially  in our children.




22 comments:

  1. Very moving and very positive

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  2. My wonderful cousin, Stephen, was murdered in Canada over 30 years ago, and not a day goes by without my suffering a tiny bit.

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  3. What a moving post, Frances, and a wonderful tribute to him, and a celebration of what you now have too.

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  4. How perfectly you describe it, Frances x

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    1. Not perfectly I'm afraid, Teresa. But that's just the way it was and is for me.

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  5. Coincidentally, Frances, I've just commented on another blog on the subject of grief and grieving. I think that the problem comes (and this is a personal view obviously) when one becomes too absorbed in self-pity. After all the person who has died is no longer there. We grieve for our loss. I grieved when my son was dying because of the horrible death he had. When he died he left instructions exhorting us to celebrate his life and not grieve for his death. I have tried always to honour his wishes.

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    1. G b, I know this isn't a competition, but your loss has to be worse than mine. As for self pity, I don't think that ever really came into it. It was more a matter of survival. I'm so very sorry about your son.

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    2. I wasn't suggesting that self-pity came into it for you Frances. You don't strike me as the self-pitying sort of person anyway. I have seen people wallow in grief to the extent that it becomes all-absorbing. To me that is more a reflection of the negative personality of the person concerned than the real loss (or in one case I think it was more guilt given that the person was cheating on the person who died and was openly talking of divorce).

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  6. So beautifully described, Frances. After my brother died, I was surprised by those lulls. They made me wonder if the grief had come to an end. But, as you say, the lulls come to help support us through the grief which, although more bearable with time, is with us forever. x

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    1. I think you are right, Frances - it should always be 'love' not 'loved'.

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    2. Yes. The lulls are deceptive, Joanna, aren't they. But we need them.

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  7. How very true, so nice to read it, described, in a way that I could not, thank you.

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  8. Although I have never given birth, I think your comparison with the crashing waves and the lulls of grief is very fitting.
    It's been a bit over 4 years since my husband died, but there are still moments when "it" gets me by surprise and I can hardly fight back the tears.

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    1. Yes , it's those unexpected moments that are hardest to deal with, aren't they?

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