For many of you this might be a very odd read or concept. But, for those of you (us) who live/ have lived with Grief “by our side” every moment of every day for a long time - it may resonate with you differently.
The truth is, if someone had said to me years ago that grief would one day be your companion, the one “friend” who never leaves your side - honestly - I would have thought they were stark-raving mad, probably cut them from my life or at least minimised my contact with them, but since losing our daughter 5 years ago, I now realise that it’s not only plausible but it’s almost how many of us who live with “chronic grief” feel.
For many of us, grief in the beginning (I’ll call this “the acute phase”) is intense, painful, uncontrollable, unpredictable and (quite frankly) unwanted. Yet as time goes on and we move into another stage (I’ll call this “the chronic phase”). It’s here where grief’s hard edges soften and become like an old, familiar face you can sit in silence with and have an unspoken understanding with each other. It expects nothing of you and you expect nothing of it either. Now, you (we) know the drill. It’s like it almost always comes to remind you, you’re not alone but also, that this (whatever “this” is) isn’t over and I now know - it will never be over.
In the beginning, well-intended family and friends would say things like “time heals all wounds”, “just give yourself some time”, “you will feel ok/ better soon”. But… this is all utter BULLSHIT and usually said by people who feel the need offer words of wisdom but don’t really know what to say - So maybe, here’s a small tip - if you don’t know what to say that’s probably your body giving you a subtle hint to NOT TO SAY ANYTHING or maybe just say “I’m here for you and I’m sorry you’re so sad”, you can’t fix someone dying - so don’t even try - it actually hurts more when those around you try “make things better”.
Anyway, back to my “old mate grief”, in my darkest of moments, and let me tell you they were pretty dark and desperate - grief was always there, letting me cry, letting me scream, letting me fall to the ground, letting me do all these things without judgement, it just was “there”. There were moments it would be less intense or feel like it moved away, but it NEVER left me completely- I can/ could always feel its presence. So as time ticked on, it became the one constant in my life, the days moved from one to the next, the sun continued to rise and set, more wrinkles and saggy skin appeared but my “old mate grief” still stood by me.
Now, I want to be clear - mainly so I don’t offend (more) people I care about, I KNOW grief isn’t my “mate”, logically of course I know this and I’m in no-way comparing G&Ts with my girlfriends (who I know love me and my family dearly) to this “newcomer” in my life called Grief. And as far as friends go, Grief is a pretty shit one, to be fair. It’s always about them, they turn up unannounced (and often uninvited - without even a bottle of red to soften their blow - how rude I know), they cause significant distress - mental and physical anguish on a scale I never knew existed, they’re erratic and take up (too much) space you might have wanted to fill with someone else, but they can’t “sit there” when Grief is sitting in “their seat” because you just (literally) don’t have the bandwidth to deal with Grief’s shit and focus on someone else simultaneously, harsh I know, but it’s the truth. And that bastard won’t leave - no matter how many times I’ve asked (yelled at) it to just leave me the fuck alone.
As the years tick on, Grief’s intense appearances have (for me at least) become more predictable. There are certain days on the calendar that I know they will be there in full force and I can, somewhat, even prepare for that now (maybe welcome them), at least make allowances for them in a way. Other people don’t always understand their presence and I’m learning to make this more and more ok as time goes on too. One thing Grief has taught me is how different we all process loss - there’s no right way or wrong way, there’s just your way. I have tried to educate/ inform people in my life what “my way” is and this has helped me repair bridges I’d burnt when I was caught up in my dark moments. All I’ll say here is that forgiveness is a powerful tool we could all use more often - this is one thing I continue to observe as my years march on.
Grief is an unlikely acquaintance, but it’s also one that we will all meet/ pass at some point in our lives. For me, they’ve never left my side since my daughter died and I can see now that they will never leave. And strangely, that’s ok. Why? Because there’s so little in this world that exists to keep her memory alive, but, in some very odd way, Grief reminds me that she was real and when I feel Grief’s presence, I’m simultaneously reminded of Charlotte too! So, for me at least, Grief has stood side-by-side her memory since the second she took her last breath. I don’t know what it’s like to have Charlotte and not have Grief there too, so it’s almost impossible for me to separate the two.
So, in a super strange way, Grief is my “mate” as they have allowed me to keep the memory of my daughter fresh and alive and that’s meant she did much more than just exist. I know (now) that whilst there’s breath in my lungs I will feel her absence forever, and I have to be “ok” with that, or at least be able to function with that reality - because otherwise we don’t/ can’t function at all.
Weirdly, I think we almost HAVE TO befriend Grief! To learn to live/co-exist in a healthy way, as an unhealthy relationship with Grief is all consuming and, simply, not sustainable. Sadly, this is where some people literally can not go on as the pain just cripples them, it becomes a burden too heavy to wear - I almost walked down this street too and it’s not a place I ever wish to revisit.
Yes, Grief is still here and present in my life. Even now as I write this blog, I can feel them in the background. This knot in the back of my throat, this heaviness on my chest but with these “symptoms” also come the very few memories I have of her too; her little hands, her perfect eyelashes and those tiny little fingernails, so, the truth is, I find it hard to hate Grief altogether.
I am (and will always be) so thankful she chose me to be her Mum (even if it was for only 45 minutes in the “real world”), and I hope one day I get to “tell” her that, although I also hope she feels it too. There are days when I feel she’s close but many, many days where I can’t feel her at all (and strangely on these days Grief is even more present in my life - almost like a friend that knows you need that extra support).
I speak to/ with many families similar to ours, and it’s strange actually how many people also feel this “friendship” with Grief too.
Our world has changed so much in the last 5 years; we’ve lost a daughter, we’ve endured a 115 day NICU stay to bring her twin sister home, we’ve had a successful and full-term second pregnancy ending (or beginning) with another beautiful baby girl, we’ve moved internationally, endured the bloody COVID saga (like we all did I know), I suffered a serious stroke that nearly took my life, I had to quit my job that I loved, we’ve moved “home” to be closer to family and support for rehab and now we are trying to rebuild our lives once again! It’s been a lot, and throughout all of this my relationship with Grief is one of the few that hasn’t really changed, yes it evolves slowly over time but it never really changes too much.
My old mate Grief, like it or not, is here to stay and I actually am alright with that fact! Today anyway LOL
Thanks for reading and apologies for the colourful language in parts - actually that’s bullshit, we all apologise for way too much. I am, and always will be, a potty mouthed mother.
My darling girls, all 3 of you,