(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. The 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.