On The Messiness of Grief


We’ve had so much grief, loss, and sadness in our community lately. This week is also the anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve been, as I know many of you have been too, grieving hard.

I’ve been re-reading Megan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye today. Written after the death of her mother, like mine, from cancer, I’ve read and read again these words:

Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.

“Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable”. It still feels unimaginable to me that she is no longer here.  As one of the readers of this book commented “You think, wait, don’t go, I still need you, I’m not ready… You think you are prepared and that cancer gives you a gift of time to say goodbye, but it doesn’t.”

AnneMarie Ciccarella calls grief “a messy kind of love”, and writing of losing her beloved friend Lori, says “I’m near certain that I will live with this grief for the rest of my days.”

Grief is a constant weight that you carry with you always.  Today is one of those days for  me  when the weight feels almost too much to bear.  Yes, grief is messy and there is no neat ending.  The writer Colette captured this so well when she wrote:

It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.

There will be times we will think we have our grief under control and then we will find ourselves ambushed by hearing snatches of a song, or catching a scent from a passer-by that evokes our loved one. It happens to me when I shop in certain stores my Mum loved. I see a certain blouse or a sweater and I think oh Mum would love that. Or I catch sight of someone looking at that same item. She looks so like my Mum, it’s all I can do to stop myself from running up to her and burying myself in her arms.

I’ve also been re-reading our beautiful friend Karen‘s thoughts on grief, which she shared in an email with me a year after her husband died. And now Karen is gone – another weight to add to our collective grief.

Having been through this experience, I still find it hard to find my own words of comfort to offer someone who is new to this pain. Instead, I share these words of Anne Lamott

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly- that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

Trust that in time the raw pain of grief will soften, but like a broken vase that has been painstakingly mended, if you look closely, you will see a tiny fracture, a thread vein of grief always present.

Yours with much love always

Marie xxx

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