Anyone that has lost a loved one knows just how much it sucks the big fat hairy one. There really is no apt description for the complete and utter devastation that courses through you in the immediate aftermath. But as time inexorably wears on, the shitty blends with the good and somehow, we manage to keep on keeping on. It’s just the vibe of the thing (any “The Castle” fans in the house?😅) and something, in essence, we have no control over.
But there is one aspect of this grief thing that doesn’t get any easier in a lot of respects. In fact in some ways it does get worse. Or maybe “more uncomfortable” would be a better label.
And that is the simple act of talking about, or sharing, your grief.
So why would discussing something that is inherently improving, albeit incrementally, become harder as time passes?
I have spent many a night sitting on the floor, waiting for demons to sleep, pondering this question and think I finally understand. And it relates directly to the “waves” analogy of grief that I’m sure many of you have read. (if not here it is: https://www.reddit.com/r/Assistance/comments/hax0t/my_friend_just_died_i_dont_know_what_to_do/c1u0rx2)
After some years, the waves of grief come less frequently. They can be just as intense and overpowering, but you learn to feel the signals and ready yourself as best you can. They still smash you head on, and the experience is no more enjoyable than before, but you know now to relax, hold your breath, go with it and wait for the foaming beast to subside. And it subsides a little quicker each time.
Which brings me to the paradox of the situation: fleeting sadness when expressed, does not necessarily equate with the timeframes of pity and well meaning of friendly ears.
For example, I experience this every time I write an article. At the time of writing I am deeply embedded in the emotional turmoil that has sparked the idea in the first place. I write from the heart, and naturally this means everything is very near the surface and exposed to everything that bitch grief wants to throw at me. Yet when I finally get around to posting, it can sometimes be days later (yes I have shit organisational skills). Either that or I like to let the dust settle for a bit, just to ensure I am not publishing something that is not authentically me, or that I may regret later. (So not the social media norm huh!)
Either way, when my lazy arse gets around to posting an article – the sadness has usually abated. I may even be in a great mood (writing is such a cathartic activity). In fact rarely am I dripping tears on my phone screen as I read comments.
And this is where the uncomfortableness comes in. I love the support and beautiful comments everyone shares with me. I appreciate every single one. But I really struggle with responding sometimes. Because I’m not in the headspace. I don’t want to be down right now. I often even find it hard to read my own posts sometimes! And that makes me feel like an ungrateful turd.
And it’s the same when I catch up with people in real life. I can be (imo) quite dismissive when someone probes on life after loss, or about something I have written. “All good here” and “thanks, but what about blah blah..” are common responses that leave my mouth. It’s not that I am a natural arsehole (most of the time), it’s simply because I want to be happy right at that moment.
I don’t want another wave crashing down just now, there are enough of those through the year / day / hour to deal with as it is. And of course there is the ingrained, antiquated education, that is really bloody hard to shift, of feeling ok as a male to talk openly about my emotions. It is amazingly hard to break this – and I am your poster boy for just how so. Meet me in person and you’re lucky to get below the first layer – unless I’ve had a skinfull then of course I am your atypical blubbering mess 🙂
So if you are some ways down the road in your journey with grief, don’t think there is something wrong with fobbing off questions about it. Don’t think you are being a prick. Don’t think for a second that you are doing the wrong thing.
Just remember that the more you lean into it, the better you can control the waves; the better prepared you can be for the storms. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with navigating around them when you have the opportunity.
It’s your unique journey; you are in charge. And if diverting course from an uncomfortable discussion means another few hours out of the depths, then you just bloody well do so.
And if you feel like someone is being dismissive when you are asking them about such an emotional issue; when you are extending a hand of support – don’t take offence, they probably just want to be happy in your presence. Be happy that they what to be happy with you. ✌️