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  • Sudha

Unpredictability of grief

I came across this picture while looking for online support today. It is a sculpture called "Mélancolie" by an artist called Albert György.

This is how I feel. all. the. time. There is this hole, this emptiness in me that is too heavy for me to carry most of the time. It weighs me down and I struggle to hold my head up high. It feels like a suffocating weight on my chest, my shoulders and on my back.

It is hard for me to believe, but this depiction of grief is progress compared to a year ago. Weeks on end, I struggled to get out of bed. I felt paralysed with grief and fear and I stayed in bed all day. Some days, changing out of my pyjamas and brushing my teeth were grand achievements. I was unable to perform the simplest of things.

Yet, I had 2 children to look after, to love and to protect. I somehow picked myself up, did the school runs and cooked them meals. I learnt not to cry in front of the boys. Many people said that showing my emotions openly in front of them will help them open up. It had the opposite effect on one and the other took on the role of my carer and counsellor every time he saw me cry.

There is no rule book on how to grieve. There is no graph that tells you how grief will progress. There is no medicine that will take the pain away. Grief is here to stay. And worse still, it is unpredictable.

I have a photograph of Paul in the living room with a candle always lit. I say 'Good Morning' to him first thing in the morning and say 'Good Night' to him last thing at night; I talk to him all day. I deliver soliloquies, with him as the only audience. I argue with him and feel smug that I have won the argument. This photo that I look at thousands of times every day, sometimes triggers the quiet tears or the loud, breathless howls and there is no rhyme or reason.

Paul's clothes are still in our bedroom, just as they were left 14 months ago, when he went into hospital for the last time. His belt, a pair of trousers, jumper and coat are still hanging behind the door. His work shirts are still hanging in the clothes rack. I haven't touched the chest of drawers with all his other clothes, pants and socks. The only thing I was brave enough to take out was his wedding ring which he never wore; he kept it in his sock drawer. It now hangs around my neck on a chain. Most days I'm fine when I walk into our room. But there are some days when the reality catches me unawares. I freeze as a memory hits me from nowhere, a lump forms in my throat and my eyes well up as I struggle to stop the tears from falling before the boys see me. I want to engage with the pain so that the tears are released and the pressure that has been building up has an outlet, but I fear that I will never be able to stop crying.

I cannot plot my grief like a project plan. I cannot pick a photo, a memory, a smell and say with confidence that I have felt every bit of emotion there is to feel associated with it. I cannot place a tick mark against it and say I have done it. It hits me like a tsunami weeks, months later. This is how uncertain and unpredictable grief is. There is no end, but there was a beginning to it all. For me, it was a year ago.

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Dec 09, 2020

Oh how I recognise that hole. I'm not going to say that it goes away. But I *will* say it changes and over time does become less painful and in some ways even joyful. If you need to cry, then cry. Don't try and force yourself not to, it is a release. But one day you will feel "no, I won't". And then don't. But there will always be triggers that make you cry. And that is ok. If writing continues to help, keep writing. Eyes, ears and shoulders are here either way.


Dec 09, 2020

Oh Sudha that is so sad, but I'm glad (if glad isn't too insensitive a word) that you are able to write all this down.

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