Thursday, April 16, 2020

Six Weeks, Six Lessons - Grief & Loss

A beautiful quote from an amazing author I recently discovered, and something I feel so strongly about.

In the last week, I've begun to understand very clearly that the greatest loss of my life has triggered a strong desire for me to share every one of my experiences in regards to that lifelong grief journey. This is something I want to do now, and maybe something I will continue forever. Either way, I want to start by saying this desire to share is not my weakness. This is a strength I have found amongst the gut-wrenching pain of losing my Dad. The ability to share these thoughts and feelings is what guides me through them, so I hope whether you're here because you can relate, or you're here because it's a good read, I hope that you find something useful from it.

It's been six weeks since I lost my Dad to cancer. Six weeks of a whole host of emotions and six weeks of lessons. You see, grief is the greatest teacher I desperately feared lessons from. The 'grief club' is a club I didn't want a membership to, same with the 'lost a parent' club. Sometimes I look at myself and question why I think I'm qualified to talk about grief when I'm only six weeks deep and have a lifetime of twists and turns with it ahead of me. So with that, I'm not offering advice or suggestions, I just want to share some experiences and primarily lessons that I have learnt this far.

I really thought I knew it all. I've been working so hard on my mental health for the last year (prior to losing my Dad), and I really thought I had the answers that would help myself and everybody. The truth is, everybody grieves differently, even if it's for the same person. What works for me may not work for the next person, and the sad truth is, grieving is an emotion that simply cannot be fixed by eating well and working out. Sure, those are positive actions that will provide better foundations for your mind and body, but they're not the 'answer'. Lesson number one, there is no answer. I've said it before and will say it forever, grief is a journey and typically an endless one. 

Going back to what I just said, you can be grieving the same person but an entirely different loss. In the beginning, my mum, brother and I stood by the fact that we were all experiencing the same pain and the same loss. This was to bring a sense of comfort that we were not alone. The truth is, yes we're not alone, but no, we're not experiencing the same loss or pain, in many ways. I have lost my guidance, my light to turn to in the dark, my voice of reason, my daily caring and loving joy. My brother has lost his best friend, his coffee date, his navigator through life and his greatest teacher. My mum has lost her husband, everything she has ever known. I won't write anymore on that as it truly breaks my heart into a trillion pieces to imagine the magnitude of her loss. But that is something I have opened my eyes to recently. It is different, and the support needs to match that. I reflect on the conversations I have had with my mum in the last six weeks and I wish I had that understanding from the beginning so I could process it in my head accordingly. Lesson number two, grieving the same person does not mean the same grief.

Following on from that, everybody's loss is different. That goes for losing the same relationship eg. two different people losing a parent, or two different people losing two different relationships eg. one a parent and the other a different relationship. The latter is the most sensitive to compare. I just think it's a risky game to try to relate to someone's loss with an entirely different loss. In my opinion and experience, it doesn't always receive well. Not because I don't believe anyone could experience those same traumatic feelings, I just think sometimes we like to try very hard to relate, when it's okay not to. Lesson number three, grief is not up for comparison, but it's precious to share personal experiences.

Somehow these paragraphs are linking well one after the other, it wasn't my intention but I'll roll with it! Grieving and loss are taboo subjects, purely because they're highly emotional topics and it's a highly vulnerable state to be in. People often don't know what to say in fear of saying the wrong thing, so they'd rather say nothing at all. I've also noticed that people can actively avoid talking to you about what you're going through to avoid those uncomfortable moments for themselves. If you didn't already know, I could talk about my Dad and my experience until the end of time, and the fact that sometimes that's brushed past, it hurts and makes me feel alone. As of now, that's rarely happened to me and I've had the chance to express my feelings to people many times, but the occasions it did happen truly hurt and left me feeling like I had all of this love for my Dad, all of this pain and nowhere to express it. Understandably, some people don't like to talk about their loss, but usually, you will receive clear signs and even words from them that that's how they'd feel comfortable going forward. Lesson number four, be selfless and don't be afraid of one of the most human emotions there is.

If you do have the courage to ask somebody how they're doing or you want to find a way to help, that's a wonderful gift in itself and I can't tell you how appreciated it is, I am so touched with the support I've received, and I don't think I've had anyone believe that can fix things, but for anybody who can feel discouraged, please don't be discouraged by the fact that you simply cannot fix things. It's very kind and compassionate to want to make things right, and of course, the sentiment is appreciated, but you can't fix what's happened, no words will fix what's happened and it will never be fixed. Once you can accept that, you can find peace in giving the person who needs the support the best support you can. It's very important to understand how the person grieving needs to be supported, rather than how you feel that person needs to be supported. My current experience of this is very minimal as there isn't much people can do given that we're in lockdown, but for me, I know I need a healthy mixture of time to myself and time communicating with other people. Lesson number five, don't be discouraged about your ability to support somebody just because you can't take away their pain. 

I've found myself immersed in reading material on grief, loss, loss from cancer, loss of a parent and even loss of a husband, just so I can try to understand even a fraction of what my mum is going through so I can give her better support. I actually will make one suggestion that regardless of how new I am to this kind of grief will be helpful, if you're closely supporting somebody grieving, do some research on what they're going through as specifically as you can. I know I don't understand my mums exact pain from experience, but I want to be a better support and a better daughter, so reading things that can open my mind is slowly giving me a better understanding and more patience. Anyway, from reading endless material, I often got lost in peoples stories of hopelessness and became fearful for a bleak future but then also clung onto every other persons words who shone a light on the future and gave me hope. Neither of these are correct as the truth is, grief is your own personal journey. To an extent, and this is only what I believe right now, I'm aware things will develop and change but for now, I think your grief journey has a lot to do with what you make it. I'll hold that thought for now. Lesson number six, listen to other peoples accounts of grief, but remember, your journey is personal to you. 

Okay, on reflection, my six lessons are a little bit of advice too even though I said I wouldn't give any. The point is, it's been a tumultuous six weeks since we lost my wonderful Dad. For the love of God it's been all over the show. Weeks of numbness, weeks of pain and hopelessness, weeks of overwhelming sadness and all in all, six weeks of lessons I never wanted but got anyway. There is a future to be had, a future of uncertainty, but I believe as long as I can keep writing, my dads legacy continues with me. I hope this has been a helpful insight and I hope I'm opening up the topic of grief for discussion. 


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