Forgiveness, healing & patience

It’s ironic that my last blog post was about grief. Since writing that piece I have experienced something that has shaken my reality, and I’ve come to learn a whole new definition of grief. While my reflections on the grief after losing someone are validating to read, and they prepared me to recognise the particular habits and behaviours that arise in me after such an event, I have still floundered blindly through the swamp that is trauma.

This grief tastes different. While before I was grieving my beautiful Nana’s absence, this time around I am grieving the presence of an occurrence. The loss of power, of control, of autonomy. It is a permanent black smudge on my memory. I mourn that I cannot remove it from my history.

A beautiful effect of this event has been the love shown to me by my friends and family. I’m usually so ready to express my vulnerability to others, but my trust was shaken so badly that I had a lot of trouble leaning on my support network this time around. The patience and empathy shown to me by the people who love and care for me has rendered me speechless. There is no rule book for responding to senseless acts of violence, yet my closest people have instinctively drawn close around me and helped me move through the storm, one step at a time. I have immense pride in them, and especially in my partner, who has carried me through this first-hand. She has seen me at my darkest, my messiest, and she has still bathed me in love. She is a true warrior. I am truly grateful for the kindness that has washed over me in the face of this hatred. I have had to learn to trust people with my heart and vulnerabilities, on a deeper level. With my fears, insecurities, anxiety. I’ve had to draw upon my reserves of courage to speak out and ask for help, and in doing so I’ve discovered that my well of bravery is deep. These people are angels, and over time their collective voice has become louder than that of my anxieties. They have boldly spoken to me that “I deserve love” and my heart has given in.

I’ve also learned that you can’t predict the responses people will have. People have recoiled out of their own fear, horror, and misunderstanding. A lot of people flail wildly and respond to vulnerability by making it about themselves. I have had friends and co-workers make decisions on my behalf, and take opportunities away from me, in response to my trauma. Taking away someone’s autonomy and right to make decisions for themselves is disrespectful. Yet this has helped me re-learn that your value as a human being is inherent, and nothing or nobody can ever take that away. My anger, and subsequent empowerment, at having friends put me down in the wake of such a horrible attack has helped me to feel strong.

People experiencing trauma deserve more options, respect, patience, empathy, and leniency. Not less. I have chosen to not fight against this disrespect any longer, after realising that this energy could be better spent on healing myself. In letting go of this battle, I have opened up space for love to rush in. Space for quiet healing.

Forgiveness is an act of healing. To forgive someone, in my understanding, means to separate their actions from the effect they have on your being. It means to recognise that people act in response to their own complicated inner world and perception of a situation, and it actually speaks more to what they are dealing with internally than to your own value. Forgiveness doesn’t wash away the anger, hurt, sadness that someone has caused you to feel – these feelings can linger for a very long while afterwards. It shows yourself that you are strong enough to rise above the behaviour of others, to put yourself first, to focus inwardly.

I am practising the art of forgiving myself, too. For the weeks of daily anxiety attacks. For the defensive attitude I’ve shown to my loved ones. For cultivating an irregular sleep cycle. For struggling to fulfil responsibilities and duties. For rushing myself into experiences that I thought would be positive. For miscommunications. For changing my mind. For changing my heart. For all the times where I haven’t asked for what I want, and need. I forgive myself for choosing to only surround myself with people who build me up, even though it has meant withdrawing from certain connections. I forgive myself for taking a few days, or weeks, to reply to correspondences. I forgive myself for needing to put my body, my wellbeing, my mental health first, no matter the cost. I forgive myself for the negative self-talk, the unfinished projects, for slowing down.

Patience is one of my best friends right now, and it is something I draw upon daily.

My heart is broken, not just for me, but for all of the countless precious souls who have experienced or are experiencing similar grief. People who have faced acts of hatred, and have forged a way ahead in spite of it.

I am not staying silent. I dream of a world without hatred and violence. I have made a covenant with myself that I will never stop fighting for it.

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Good Grief

Good Grief
(TW: reference to self harm, strong imagery)

For a year now my girlfriend and I have lived with my manifestation of grief; it has as much presence as a separate being so I wish to give it the respect it deserves and acknowledge it as such.
We became a recalcitrant triad.
My Nana was as much a mother to me as my own biological mother, and very similar to my own temperament; I have admired her all my life. She was the most patient, forgiving, and persevering person I have known, and I am deeply proud of how these traits have grown in me. Losing her changed me significantly. Grieving her transformed my independence into stubborn co-dependence, and increased my already present fear of abandonment to boiling point. This has eased with time, hard emotional labour, non-exhaustive reassurance and gallons of salty tears, but I still fight. I still expect new people in my life to abandon me at a moment’s notice, so deep-set is the trauma of losing her. My subconscious tries to convince me that I should even think the worst of my old friends. Complete trust is a thing of my wildest dreams.
Grief cannot be rushed, predicted, or compartmentalised. There is no single formula to the process, it depends entirely on the person and their relationship with their loved and lost.

Grief is a gutted house.

This experience taught me that our physical and emotional selves are intrinsically linked. I grew to know anxiety in a way I never had before. A tight chest became an unwelcome scraggly neighbourhood cat desperate for attention.┬áThe grief-related depression and anxiety that took hold of my wrists made me literally unwell. It caused horrific nightmares and grew a blind rage inside me that I didn’t know how to grapple with. Giving in to it meant slamming cupboard doors, breaking hairbrushes, hitting walls so hard I shook the wooden staircase, scratching tattoos across my back – it gave me repeated tastes of strong disassociation in inconvenient places. One time last winter I didn’t know how to get up from the shower floor. I was bedraggled and terrified.

Grief is a Brechtian silent scream.

The modern, Western world tends to shirk away from grief, despite it being a universal experience. We’re given three days of bereavement leave at best and expected to remain stoic, internalise our sorrow, to make sodden the interiors of our homes, to gulp down our rusty confessions of fear and loss. We’re expected to release our bold emotions through heavy music, rough sex, obsessive exercise, and intently focussed, paralytic stagnation. This repression makes no sense. It encourages a festering of the spirit, a disjointedness. The process of grieving badly needs to be shared, and respected.

I used to believe in God’s divine hand, in living by faith and trusting His Word. If I had experienced this loss while still being Christian, I would have ripped Jesus apart with my maw and doused myself in His steaming blood. No amount of glossolalia could have soothed my hurting. Learning what loss feels like in this horribly personal way could not have been reconciled by a promise of eternal peace with my spiritual Father. Death rips through the 9 circles of Hell like a 10.4 magnitude earthquake. Death is merciless, and powerfully physical.
Due to my current dogma being a reverence for the natural world and inclusive spirituality, I instead felt my rage, depression, elation, anxiety and terror accepted and absorbed into the wide fabric of the natural and celestial universe. Taking autonomy over my spirituality means I am somewhat in control of the path of my grief, it means it is mine to bear. It has left me permanently pigeon-toed, yet I will doggedly learn to dance with it.