As I get older I have to wonder to what extent as humans we can overcome grief. Described as intense sorrow, it can be difficult to capture exactly what is felt. Sorrow is a massive part of it yes, but what people tend to forget are the hundreds of other emotions that go along with it. Frustration, fear, anger, pain, regret, disappointment, rage, helplessness, confusion, shock, longing, panic, the list is endless. They all combine to form an overwhelming concoction.
The thing about grief is, I don’t think any two people experience it in the exact same way. It’s a very personal journey, although I don’t particularly like referring to it as a journey. With the ability to lay dormant within you for years you never really know when grief will come to the surface. The thing about dormancy is it can awaken at any time much like a volcano. Laying silent for years but the reality is the pain has to go somewhere, sometime.
It’s difficult to try and explain to someone that of course you felt saddness and grief for all those years but trying to convey that now the pain is much more real is impossible. The most realistic way I can put it is to imagine being punched in the stomach at full force without a moments warning. It’s a sharp sudden jab which can happen at any time. There are times when the emotion is so overbearing it can quite literally leave you breathless.
For me and my grief, although I was obviously aware of it, I don’t believe I ever really felt it for the first 10-12 years. Certainly not consistently anyway. Sure, I would have down days but they would pass. Now, it’s much more at the surface on a daily basis. It’s present and even the most subtle everyday things will remind you of the stark reality that is grief. A name, an event, a song, sound, a smell, anything can transport you back to another moment, vividly.
I believe different life events act almost like silent triggers. Completely unrelated events can stir up very real emotions and connections. For me breaking up with my first boyfriend was a trigger. It was what prompted me to look a little deeper and figure out why I felt the way I did and sure enough there was a much bigger reason backing up my emotions.
There are of course the different stages of grief and some argue there these run in a certain order. I completely disagree. Yes there is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance but I don’t believe there is one particular order to feel these in. You can jump from one to the other, progress three steps and go back four. One day you feel like you have accepted it and the next the frustration and anger can be so powerful it becomes unbearable.
Does it ever really leave you? Personally I don’t think so, because the reality is a massive part of your life has changed and you can never get it back. Even as I write this I can feel the stinging pain of grief. I believe grief grows and evolves with you. It’s there with you by your side and sometimes it can be the darkest cloud over you and then some days you feel a sense of something greater, that that person you lost is still next to you, in their own way.
With all of this being said I honestly don’t think the pain of grief can be put into words. When you lose someone you realise all the roles that one person filled. In my case it was a father to three sons and a daughter, a husband of over 25 years, a son, a brother, a best friend, a world class mechanic to name just a few. The everyday absence can’t be ignored. The love, guidance, support, friendship and other amazing qualities that we would never have gone without can only be thought about it. One source of solace I do believe in is that we can carry on at least some of his legacy by practising the traits and values he taught us and regardless of religious beliefs know that he is living within us and as long as that is the case, he is alive in some way.