Grief is one of things that is often pushed into the corner. No one quite faces up to it nor knows what to say about it. Yet, it is something that just about everyone will experience during their life. It may be at different points in their life and to varying degrees; but it will be there.
Yet, why is it so hush hush? It’s that unspoken word, surrounded by pitying glances and whispers. People are happy to share their condolences for a person experiencing grief, though rarely have the gusto to face up to said person. It’s not a disease: it’s an emotion.
Grief is usually associated with the death of someone. Even though it applies to so many different circumstances – the loss of a relationship, the loss of a friend, the loss of a house, the loss of a job or even pet. Sadly, everyone will experience this harrowing emotion at some point in their life.
Death arguably is the hardest type of grief. The death of someone is not simply a loss. It leaves a vacant gap in someone’s life where that person should be and the future that was ripped away. The memories that were made are consecrated as these are now sacred, the relationship with that person is grieved, and the questioning whether one appreciated them enough. And then there’s the multiple moments when you forget that that person is no longer there. The moment when you go to ring them to tell them about something that they would appreciate, yet they will never have the luxury of knowing.
To say the least, grief is an extremely complex emotion. It’s an emotion that is highly subjective to every individual and experienced at different times. My favourite analogy is that it hits in waves – some are big and engulfing, others small and some just catch you by surprise.
I am by no means an expert in grief, few people are. I will say that I’ve had a deep relationship with grief and I still am. Grief is there shadowing my life, the shadow is getting smaller as time passes but it will always follow me. The best friend to grief is time. The age-old saying – time is the best healer – is extremely true.
There are many models that try to compartmentalise grief, to fit this utterly incomprehensible, bewildering emotion into stages or a process. They provide some comfort and guidance for someone experiencing grief; but they’re only a guide. In my experience they identify the emotions associated with grief that I experienced / experience and put a label on them or justify to myself why I might be feeling a certain way. Yet, grief by nature is too varying and bewildering to be standardised.
So what am I trying to say? Grief is hard, to say the least. It’s bewildering, an emotional roller coaster. It’s an abstract thing that often can’t be quantified, or expressed easily. Don’t ignore it, don’t shy away from it. Stand up to it – discuss it, ask about, learn about it as sadly one day you will experience it too. But, most of all be understanding as grief can hit at the oddest moments and a person will do everything they can to not dissolve with it. Yet, sometimes they will and it’s not conquering them, it’s just temporarily knocked them over. And, they will stand back up stronger and brave.
The little sister to grief is bravery – the bravery to carry on with one’s life, even though it’s been turned upside down and everything they knew has been taken from them. Grief knocks the fragility of life, it reminds one how easily the simple act of living life can be taken away from you.