This is a very personal, kind of rambly post that I wrote yesterday when I was upset and hurting. I was all ready to chuck it in the recycle bin after I wrote it because I felt ashamed and embarassed by my emotions. I still am today but I realise that maybe, one day, someone might stumble upon this on the big wide internet and find themselves feeling a little less alone. Or maybe someone will read this and look at those around them who are grieving differently. Speaking up about personal experiences is important. Hard, but important. Thank you in advance for reading.
Grief sucks. There’s not really many other ways to say it. It sucks balls (if you’ll pardon the phrase) from here to the next galaxy. And back. And then probably there again. That’s just how much it sucks. It’s a messy ball of tangled emotions that’s more tangled up than a wool of yarn that’s been a cat’s victim for a week. And worst of all, no matter how much you know the theory behind it, when you’re feeling all the crap that comes with it, it’s hard as hell to remember.
Be gone with your inspirational ‘But grief means you have loved and been loved’ poetry stuff. Only an idiot wouldn’t realise we only grieve because we loved someone. It might look super cool and inspirational when stuck on a pretty background, but grief doesn’t want inspiration, it doesn’t want pretty poetry and sunsets. Sometimes it doesn’t know what it wants. Tears? Distraction? A hug? Understanding? Acknowledgement? It changes. It varies, sometimes from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. Sometimes you’ll only know what it wanted/didn’t want, when someone tries to give you it.
This happens because, like I’ve said above, grief isn’t just one emotion. It’s a collective term that forms the sum of all types of emotions. Those emotions may be different, and come in different quantity and intensity, for different people. Similarly, it is unlikely you will ever grieve the same twice.
Which in itself is a massive pain because it means we can never learn how’s the best way to do it.
Grief is one of those things that doesn’t come with a manual. When you lose someone (because this is the type of grief I’m talking about here), you don’t get handed a manual with steps to follow. You’re on your own. And that’s tough (and sucky, let’s not forget sucky) and it’s probably going to take a hell of a lot more out of you than you thought.
At least I know it did me.
Last year (it almost makes me sick to think that it happened last year) I lost someone. I called her my sister, regardless of the fact we didn’t share blood, or parents, or hadn’t even grown up together. But we were family who had chosen each other, whose bond was as undeniable as the one that blood siblings have. We bickered like siblings, we laughed at the same stupid jokes, we cried together. She was as big a part of my heart as if we had been raised together. She called me her brother. Blood didn’t matter, never should matter when it comes to the people you pick as your family.
But to the world it does matter. You lose a sibling and your world is allowed to stop. Friends are supposed to help look after you where possible. Your emotions are validated by everything society tells you what losing a sibling feels like.
Lose a friend, and no one expects you to fall apart. They expect you to hurt but losing friends, losing people, happens, and we live in a world that very much so wants us to sweep our grief under the carpet before it makes everybody feel uncomfortable. It didn’t matter that she was more than a friend, that she was a sister, because all everybody around us could see was a friendship. A close one, sure, but just a friendship.
So last year, when I got the news that she was gone (which I got second hand because her parents had decided that I was the be-all and end-all of all evil), my world tried to stop. I was ready for this news. I had watch her slowly fading away for a year and the last time I had seen her face to face I had left with the gut wrenching certainty that I would never see her again, never hear her laugh (she had the most contagious laugh I have ever known a person to have and I have laughed at so many things I normally wouldn’t because her laugh would get me going).
She was gone. It was still abstract. Every wall I had put up for the news dropped was up and ready to take the battering. And they took it, and I didn’t cry. Instead I stayed calm (maybe too calm in retrospect) and informed some mutual friends that lived near us. We agreed to all go for ice cream that day. As they’d never been that close to her, not as close as me and my brother anyway, I’d expected them to be there for me. But no one knew what to do. We talked awkwardly about everything but after the necessary. There was awkward hugging.
I think I remember the ice cream didn’t taste much, but instead all I could think was of all the times we had come to this exact place with her, had laughed, had talked, had been together.
That was the day I realised that our society has made grief into something…unwanted. Other people do not want you to be grieving (especially not if you are usually ‘the strong one’ that everybody relies upon) because it makes them awkward. This is the same reason why it’s perfectly ok to laugh whilst in the street but crying would be….unseemly.
Because it makes people uncomfortable.
So grief is expected to be private, so private as to be invisible to those around you. You pull it in, and in, and in, until everything looks normal on the outside. Until even you are convinced that you have this under control and that it’s fine, that you’re fine, and that life can carry on by itself.
And then one day, for a reason you might never figure out, it blindsides you.
I don’t remember when or why it happened to me, but I remember sitting on the side of bed, howling with tears. I was angry, I was sad, I was a thousand things beside for which I don’t know the words. That day, for reason I still don’t know, my walls, my carefully constructed walls, came tumbling down.
Grief rushed in.
I know now (and I knew at the time but it was hard to see) that that was healthy. Not allowing myself to feel was only going to lead to damage in the long run and as I have a history of making myself sick with withholding my emotions, I think it was a blessing that my walls cracked long before I thought they would.
And now that grief is in, it keeps catching me off guard. A dream there, a thought here and I feel this pain in my chest. It’s been very true of the last few days where I’ve hardly felt like I can dislodge the ball of pain that is living somewhere in the middle of my chest. It’s distracting, from pretty much everything I want to do, and today it’s come with an added veil of profound sadness that has just made everything just that little bit harder, that little bit more difficult to get done.
It’s also why I’m writing this, because on top of the knot-in-chest today I also had the knot-in-throat. There is so much I never say, so much I never talk about. Mostly I can’t get the words out, or people’s reaction to my words make me clam up all over again. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m allowed to talk. This has as much to do with the fact that when I do talk, some people just reply with silence, or the fact that I don’t want to burden the people who do reply because they are definitely dealing with more shit than they need to be already as it is.
But then today I saw some people I know making great dramas over twitter of how bad they felt, how tired they felt, how down they felt. Tweets about crying and about feeling shitty. And it made me feel bitter. Bitter that they were throwing their pain everywhere for everyone else to deal with and I always felt that I needed to hide mine because it was going to make everyone feel awkward, and in turn make me feel awkward about it. Today I feel like I’m being torn up inside by this sadness and for once, I actually needed to say something. If it was okay for everyone to cry and tell the world how hurt they were when two celebrities died, then it had better be okay for me to tell the world how much losing my sister makes it hurt.
And if it isn’t, then this messed up society needs to take a good look at itself. Today I needed this pain to exist somewhere else than inside my chest, and for once, for goddamned once, I am not going to apologise for how my grief is making me feel and act.
I woke up feeling like I was falling apart, and I still do feel like that. I’ve managed precious little because I think my brain’s energy has been focussed inwards on trying to work out how to cope with all the feelings going on. The one thing I did was get dressed (I had to go out after all) but I think that had as much to do with putting armour on as it did anything else. I got dressed ‘my style’ today, not because I felt like it, but because it felt that if I was me on the outside, maybe it would prevent me inside from crumbling.
I’ll let you know if I ever work out whether it worked or not.
Now it’s later in the day than I wanted it to be, and the knot-in-throat is partially gone (what I really need is to get the tears out but that hasn’t happened for a while), and the pain in my chest is still there. But at least I feel a little bit less alone, even if the only thing that ever reads this is my computer.
Sometimes, I guess, we just need to lay our thoughts bare before we can start to feel better.