Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Grief

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Grief

Grief, I wonder how long it lasts? Does it get easier? When will this emptiness go? My mother died five years ago today and I miss her every day. I sometimes forget she is not here any more and think "I must tell her that" or "I must ask her that". But I can't. I can never tell her anything again. I can never ask her those questions that only she would know the answer to. Every time this happens it takes my breath away, for a second I cannot breathe, I am struck with the finality of it all over again. It hurts.
I have lost friends and grandparents, I know people who have lost their child. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child, I hope I never find out.

When my grandfather died I was so angry with him. How could he leave me? How could he just die? He was 96, I still felt it was too soon. It took fifteen years for me not to just burst into tears at the mere thought of him, I loved him with all my heart.

I was lucky, I had my mum for 56 years, she was the kindest, funniest person I know. Her lungs had been damaged in the Second World War. She was living in London and a bomb hit a factory and Bromine gas was released into the air, my mum breathed it in and spent six months recovering in hospital. As she got older her breathing became more difficult and at the end of June 2012 she caught pneumonia. Within a week my darling mother was in hospital, confused and unable to breathe. She was ventilated in Intensive Care and died with her family at her bedside.

The staff at the hospital were fantastic, they allowed my mum to die with dignity and without any suffering. I walked as if in a daze for months. I couldn't work because I couldn't function. She was 83 years old but I thought she was immortal. I never thought of her as old, just as my mum. Always there, always sensible, always quick with a one liner. I never thought she would die.

It's five years now and feels like yesterday. I can't describe how it has changed because in so many ways it is as raw as that first day but in other ways it is nowhere as bad. I can now look back and smile at the thought of her. I still hear her voice, a word as I walk up the stairs or as I fall asleep. I hope every night that I will dream of her so that I get another moment to listen to her or just hold her hand.

I do think the pain and grief we suffer when someone dies is equal to the love we had when they were alive. I loved my mum so much, I must expect her loss to hurt.

As I write this, deep down I still do not believe she is dead, that I will never see her again. Rightly or wrongly I try not to think of it. I push it to the back of my mind. Buried deep where it cannot surface and hurt me. When the reality hits, which it does from time to time, it takes my breath away. I cannot breathe and just for a moment I have to stop what I am doing and take a deep breath before I carry on.

A few years ago I found a comment in reply to a simple question.

My friend just died, I don't know what to do.

G Snow replied. The reply has since been quoted, and misquoted, many times on the internet. It perfectly sums up how I felt, and still feel.
(I think this is the original piece if you know differently please let me know).

 "As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. 

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out. 

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."



my-mum
1929 - 2012

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4 comments

  1. I am so sorry...Thinking of you.
    I have never read that quote before...It really does describe grief well.
    Sending hugs x

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    1. Thank you Kim. It helped me as I knew it wouldn't get "better" just be different and this describes it beautifully.

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  2. This struck at me to the core. My parents both passed away before I had children and I do still ask questions 'why did you leave me to deal with this?"
    "What the eff am I meant to do now"
    We'll always miss them and that keeps them present

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I do know I am lucky to have had her in my life so long but like all things I wanted longer. She never met my Grandson, her first great grandchild and I know they would have loved each other. xx

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