I met up with an acquaintance the other day who has tragically, recently lost her child. She has emerged out of the numb shock which usually follows, (I think somewhat mercifully), directly after the loss of a loved one and now she is in that raw, indescribably painful stage of grief which literally consumes you. She had asked to meet with me in the hope that by sharing my own experience, it would help her understand and prepare for what lay ahead for her. Like many of us who have experienced grief, she cannot at this time, imagine being happy again and is desperately looking for a path forward back to her old self.
As I approached her at the table, I could sense the sorrow radiating from her very being. I wanted to rush over and put my arms around her and promise it would all be okay, or wave a magic wand and take her pain away. But of course this isn’t a fairy tale, there is no quick fix and this is what I was here to tell her. All I could do was share my own grief experience with her and offer her hope, that in time, even though she didn’t feel like it at the moment, she will have the capacity to feel happy again.
I remember in the weeks after Sam died, feeling like I had been dealt a life sentence. It was one of the things that I struggled with the most – the infiniteness of grief.
The same thoughts would swirl round and round in my head every day, a relentless barrage of feelings which I just couldn’t escape…
How would I ever find happiness again?
Was I resigned for the rest of my days to be consumed by sadness?
Would I ever again experience pure, undiluted, light-hearted joy?
It certainly didn’t feel like it as I waded through every hour, trying to act ‘normal’, smiling and making small talk with the supermarket cashier and car park moms, whilst all the time I was screaming on the inside “My baby died, can’t you see how unhappy I am?”
Of all the well-meant platitudes I received after Sam’s death, the only one that stands out as having any truth in it for me is the one about time being a healer.
And by this, I mean a long, long time.
It is definitely not what the newly bereaved want to hear, but it is the truth of the matter. Sorrow for the loss of someone you truly love is not a fleeting emotion. It hangs around like an unwelcome visitor and knocks on your door unexpectedly and sometimes at the most inconvenient hour.
In the beginning, it is all consuming, but one day somewhere along the way, you wake up and your loved one is not the first thing you think about. You start to feel a bit like your old self, not all the time, but at least some of it. You take three steps forward and one backward every day but the important thing is that you start moving forwards. Of course, you will never be the same ‘self’ you were before, nor should you want to be. But you find bits of the old ‘you’ and combine it with the new and unexpectedly, something beautiful, like a butterfly emerges.
Grief is never welcome, yet the depth of it is defined by the greatness of our love. At times it can seem never ending and the truth is that a part of you will grieve for the rest of your days. But in time, life does take over and you learn to compartmentalise your sorrow, and the joy and happiness that you feel are sweeter and deeper.
by Kate Polley
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