Where do we go when we die? Who knows! One thing is certain, we all die eventually. Every single one of us has a shelf life. There is a day mapped out for us, it could be decades away and it could be tomorrow. The fear of death itself is the fear of the unknown is what scares us the most. Leaving everyone we love in the world is scary but sometimes people leave first, they leave us behind. Our parents, partners, siblings, and best friends even our children cannot stick around forever. Everyone you love will die and it might just be sooner than you think. The world can be a cruel place, there is little room for fairness when it comes to who gets to live a long life. If it was fair we would all grow old and pass away in our sleep. Unfortunately it rarely turns out that way.
I come from a small family, I can count my cousins on one hand. As I type this I am 27 years old, I have one remaining grandparent, one remaining parent and 2 out of 3 siblings alive. So I’ve had to board the grief train a few times. There’s lucky people who go through a great majority of their lives before they lose anyone and others who experience loss from the get go. Some go through it over and over again and we all wonder how they can still find the strength to get up in the morning. But for the most part they do, because if there is one thing I have learned is that no matter what happens, no matter who dies, the world does not stop for anyone. It still comes as a surprise when you’re going through the worst time of your life. When you are planning a funeral, facing the prospect of saying goodbye and life is ticking away normally for everyone else.
My Mam died just over five months ago now on December the 21st. Life really hasn’t been the same since. It will never be again. That’s the worst thing about death, it’s permanent. I regularly slip into denial, convinced that she’s just gone for a while, that I will see her again, she’s not gone for good. Then I realise I can pretend all I want but it won’t change the fact that I will never see her again, that I’ll never speak to my mother again. Yes I know she’s watching over me, looking after me and that I may see her when I die. It’s comforting and a nice idea but still, she’s not here anymore.
The whole point of this blog post is to talk about grief. Here are five things I have learned:
The Five Stages Are a Real Thing
We’ve all heard about the five stages of grief. The stages of the grieving process the experts say outlines what a person goes through when they experience loss. Denial, depression, anger, bargaining and acceptance in no particular order. It’s apparently normal to bounce from one to the other radically. As I already mentioned the denial that she really is gone is strong some days. It was the same with my brother, I was eight years old when he died and I wondered why everyone was so devastated. I was sure his death wasn’t real until years later when it hit me that that was it for little Stephen. I went through my delayed grieving and decided to get a tattoo for him once I was old enough. I got his memorial piece shortly after my eighteenth birthday, simply as a way of marking that he was real and he was here. He was important.
The depression stage is pretty self-explanatory. Recently I met someone for the first time and it happened to come up in conversation we both lost our mums, hers passed away a few years ago. She said “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through but don’t worry the screaming crying in the middle of the night on the kitchen floor stops eventually” I loved her for just randomly and casually saying that sentence which pretty much sums up a lot of the depression stage. The bargaining stage? Meh. There was none of that as she was actually dying. My Mam was terminally ill and had suffered far more than any person ever should. We had to just watch her go, if she could have stayed she would. My mam loved being alive, she had a lot more of it to do, she was a positive person who appreciated everything she had and never coveted what the world didn’t give her. Like you know, health. And now, there is no one to beg to bring her back, why bother.
Next anger, JESUS CHRIST the anger. The most horrendous, bitter stage. I won’t go into it too much, there’s a lot to be angry about. It may not be justified at times but like any other part of the grieving process it happens. Its emotional overload sometimes you just need to rage. Seriously if I start I will never stop so cutting this one short!
The last stage is acceptance. I’m a long way off when it comes to accepting my mother’s death but I have little moments that sneak in when I know that things will be okay. My granddad (dad’s dad) died three months after my Mam. I loved him a lot, I got some of my traits from him. He was a very stubborn yet very cool, funny man. My beautifully strong grandmother died a short few years ago, I like to imagine them happily reunited. There’s a certain amount of comfort in seeing someone getting to live to be old, it’s the way it should be for everyone. Tragedy for me (and I’m speaking completely personally here) is when far too much time is robbed and someone’s life is cut far too short. Of course I find an elderly relative passing away incredibly sad, but it’s a different kind of sad.
There is no rulebook
There are no rules when it comes to grief. Emotions, feelings and as I said above the stages are random, unpredictable and occur in any order whenever they damn well feel like it. People tell you that you are going to feel this that and the other. This part will be difficult, you can expect to react to that like this blah, blah. I honestly believe that if I met someone the same age as me, that lost the same person to them at the exact same time, we would feel nothing alike. Sure in general terms everyone who experiences loss goes through similar emotions. That is not to say we all react the same. Even in families, each member’s experience differs. We are all on a personal journey throughout life and each individual is at a unique point in theirs when the death occurs. It comes down to life experience, emotional intelligence, personal circumstances and all that shite. Bottom line is grief is a personal thing. Hence why I have entitled this blog post Things I’ve learned not Things you can expect.
Who matters and Who Does Not
Due to the ole Schizophrenia I was lucky enough to learn how shit some people can really be during the hard times. So I was somewhat prepared for the lesson of who will be there for me and who would not be. The experience of going through something awful while watching friendships fall like dominoes is not a new one for me.
I find a lot of people that have never lost anyone think grief is a thing you go through for a few weeks and then you move on. “It’s all I can’t imagine what you’re going through but can you just get over it as quickly as possible please so you can get back to helping me with my relationship issues.” The problem is a lot of people my age don’t have a reference point when it comes to losing a parent. They try to compare it to something they have been through themselves. I have good friends, and friends that have lost their own parents, they get it.
Then some panic about not knowing what to say, crossing the street to avoid you. Bit of wisdom: there is no right thing to say, no words that can make it all better but saying nothing at all, ever? Not a nice move. Many people told me that they couldn’t make my mother’s funeral as it was inconvenient being the day before Christmas Eve. Was a fair bit inconvenient for me and all luvs but what can you do. But none of that really matters because……
The Fucks or Lack Thereof
I used to care about what other people thought of me so much more than I do now. I hated falling out with anyone. I chased after people that I should have walked away from a long time ago. I worried about the little things far too much. Basically I gave far too many fucks about certain situations, other people and their problems. Losing a parent dramatically changed this. Problems that would have knocked me for six before; seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. If I genuinely feel I have wronged someone, it’s only right that I say sorry and try make it up to them. If someone has a problem with me, unless I honestly feel I need to apologise; I won’t. Gone are the days of me constantly apologising for basically existing. At this particular point in my life, I can’t seem to conjure any fucks to distribute to those who don’t like me. I don’t run around trying to make them feel better for themselves or even attempt to defend myself to those they may have turned against me. I don’t chase after anyone these days. In the highly unlikely event that I ever do find that fuck I supposedly am meant to give, I’ll be sure to let ye know. Until then, not a fuck in sight I’m afraid.
It Becomes a Part of You
Have you ever been surprised to see someone out enjoying themselves or straight back to work immediately after losing a loved one? It really is not a case of mourning, grieving and then moving on. For most people, definitely for me anyway you kind of get on with your life straight away and then grieve for your loss in little bits and pieces forever. The person you love gets taken away, a part of you is robbed along with them and grief finds its place in your heart, where it will stay forever. Just a small place, manageable at best but completely overwhelming at times. Loss does not always happen for a reason. Loss is not a lesson, a learning experience or a test. Loss is loss.
And its shit. If you are missing someone, my heart goes out to you ❤
Keep Shining On