For those of you who know grief, you will need no explanation, but those who are yet to experience the heart-wrenching grief of losing a loved one to death or separation in some other way may like to follow my journey through grief.
My earliest experience of grief due to the death of a loved one took place when I was 16 years old. My nanna died (grandmother) and several months later my other nanna died. At the time my first nanna died my sister was only 3 years old and we were at nanna’s house as it was a Sunday. My nanna made the best Sunday lunches ever, very traditionally British with boiled potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, cabbage and swede and chicken or beef. My favourite was beef because the gravy was so delicious. I would salivate just thinking about it as a child.
On this particular Sunday my nanna looked pale. She had had a bad night’s sleep yet she was slaving over a hot stove making us lunch. After lunch, my cousin, my sister and I were in the living room as she cleared up and after a while my grandfather asked where she was. We just said we did not know and a few moments later he was calling out her name as he broke into the bathroom to find her lying on the floor. He was crying and rocking her, I do not know what came over me, I did not know first aid at all, but I asked him to help pull her out of the bathroom and placed her on her bedroom floor. My cousin was taking care of my sister and called an ambulance. I attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but nothing happened so I started pressing her chest like they did in the movies, but her lips were already blue. It was obvious she was gone before I started.
I was numb inside, in shock.
Shortly after the ambulance came the medics tried to resuscitate her like I had done, and then my aunt and mum arrived. There was chaos and turbulence all around me as family cried and realised what had happened. I went home and cried my heart out.
A short while later was her funeral. Instead of being invited to go to the funeral, my family asked me to look after my sister and my young cousin instead. I said yes, but I secretly wanted to go. Nobody had said anything to me since I had tried to bring her back to life – it was like it had never happened. This was hard for a 16 year old to take in. I cried privately in my mum’s bedroom while my sister and cousin played in the living room.
Grief was filled with shock and denial for me back then, I watched how my family members processed grief. It was sharp and short and it was more a ‘better get things sorted’ organisational way, not giving anyone permission to really cry, to really grieve.
When my other nanna died I didn’t see my dad cry once. Apparently he did so in the private of my parents’ bedroom, and I wondered why sadness was so taboo to my family?
Ten years later my father died. This was a far deeper grief than I had ever felt before. With grandparents we can feel the grief, but not all of us are as close to them as to our own parents. I was a real daddy’s girl, and out of all of my family he was the one person who understood me the most. I was probably a strange unconventional child to most of my family in the way I thought, but he listened and he heard me.
This time I did grieve properly. This time I had opened up spiritually and had a new understanding of the bigger picture and the life beyond death, but this grief tore me open from the inside and this grief lasted a whole 10 years.
The phone call we receive when a close loved one has died is indescribable, being told they are no longer on this earth. It is not possible to fully put the feeling into words; it’s like someone takes your heart and pushes it heavy into your belly. Grief feels like you are carrying this heaviness for however long you grieve.
I had all the stages of grief, shock, denial, anger and incredible sadness. We can go through blaming ourselves, blaming others, blaming the loved one for leaving us. I even felt abandoned. As my father was the only real connection I had to my family, when he left it was like I had been orphaned. This is how abandoned I felt.
Grief comes in many forms. We can grieve death, we can grieve the loss of our old identity, we can grieve the loss of a loving relationship or the loss of a personal project that no longer works like the closure of a business if we are entrepreneurs.
Grief needs to be a more acceptable emotion. I wish we in the West were taught how okay it is to grieve and to have people feel safe to shed their pain in groups. When a child sees adults processing grief through crying they are then given absolute permission to process emotion healthily. Unprocessed grief can create health issues. Not long after my Father died my skin broke out in rosacea. As I am now out of the grief period my skin is clearing up and my life is changing through the choices I make.
For 10 years I wallowed in grief. I felt I did not deserve happiness or to feel good, but I would not take away that experience of grief. When felt fully, it can open the heart to both ourselves and those around us. We become more compassionate, empathic individuals and more loving.
Our hearts are meant to be used, opened and awakened. Grief may be painful, but you are using your heart. Better to experience loving than to resist love for fear of loss.
“Everyone who lives long enough to love deeply will experience great losses. Don’t let fear of loss, or the losses themselves, take away your ability to enjoy the wonderful life that is yours.”
~ Barbara “Cutie” Cooper