Tag Archives: grief

Feeling Sad?

Go here – only an emotion Play the song, and then read. Only an emotion is by Cornish singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid and it’s a very beautiful and true piece.

Grief and sorrow are natural aspects of human experience. Or at least, they should be. How can we be rounded, complete individuals if we do not know loss or regret? You can’t live fully without experiencing pain and setback, to insulate yourself from such feelings is to not live at all.

But as the song expresses, culturally we aren’t good with this. We aren’t supposed to be sad. And yes, I’ve had total strangers tell me to cheer up, that it’ll never happen, at times when I’ve had to bite back the ‘but it already did’. When your heart is breaking and your world falling apart, this kind of well meaning bullshit is one of the least helpful things a person can do to you. But the gods help you if you let on it is so. Well meaning people who are sure you should be over it by now tend to find you unreasonable if you don’t conform to their expectations.

I hate crying in public. I’m not a big fan of crying in front of most people, because it feels like too great an intimacy to share. But sometimes, the emotions are just too strong and I cannot prevent myself from weeping. Tom (my wise and lovely bloke) once pointed out to me that if your body needs to cry, then it needs to cry and the best thing is to go with that. Suppressed emotion does no good at all to the heart, soul, or mind. What we feel doesn’t evaporate just because we refuse to let it show. And if you keep locking it down and hiding it away, sometime it explodes. Then there’s a great rush of startling emotion, and the people who couldn’t handle the regular grief certainly don’t take that kind of unleashing well.

There is healing in tears. Often I don’t even know what I’m crying for, it bubbles up, painful, intense and absolutely necessary. I’ve spent too many years not shedding those tears. I suspect I’m crying more than many people would consider reasonable, but this is mine, and for me, and I need it. I am not apologising for it. I’ve watched a recently bereaved friend through similar things. There are always folks who think that surely, you should be getting over it by now. No. Some things we choose never to get over, and we all of us have the right to live with our sadness if that is our preference. It is convenient for others if we mend our broken hearts, but that doesn’t mean we should. Some things take more time to get through than people on the outside of it can understand. The tears are part of the recovery process. It’s important to grieve; there can be no true moving on until the grieving is finished. That’s true for any kind of sorrow.

I’m learning this one, day by day. Learning to cry without feeling shame. Learning that I am entitled to my own feelings, no matter how inconvenient they are for others. I might get so that I can cry without feeling like I’m doing something unfair to those around me. It’s natural, crying. People can either put up with it, or move away, but I am never going to let anyone get away with telling me again that I can’t, or shouldn’t, or that I am being ridiculous and over reacting. No one else is going to get away with telling me that my tears are an assault upon them, or get away with trying to make out that my distress is really emotional blackmail. Enough. I have learned some lessons, at least.

I offer you blessings of tears, the freeflowing release of weeping when it is needful, and wish you all the courage to swear colourfully at anyone who does not respect that natural process.

Grief

It’s not just bereavement that brings grief. Any kind of loss or trauma will very likely take a person into the process of grief. Having been through some stuff myself, and watched others going through things, grief is not an experience that makes any kind of sense, but it is a process. So, I offer these words in the hopes that they are helpful to others who find themselves facing hard times.

The first challenge grief creates is that it doesn’t always kick in immediately after the event. If there’s a great deal of stress around the loss or trauma, we may not be able to grieve over what has happened – feeling like you are the person who must hold a family together after a loss, or being so deep in crisis there is no time to deal with emotions, would be two obvious causes of this. Grief is pushed aside. When this happens, the need to go through the process doesn’t actually go away. At some point, it comes back. That could take days, or years, and it’s not entirely predictable. Delaying the grieving process often makes it a lot harder to go through, and because delayed grief makes even less sense to onlookers, it can reduce the available support for the sufferer. In the meantime, the person who needs to grieve can find themselves numb, or otherwise emotionally troubled – depression may occur, feelings of helplessness and other expressions of suppressed distress.

Working through grief is a painful process. It’s very tempting to want to resist that pain, but doing so makes it worse. Recognising that it is a process and that it needs going through, make it easier to handle. There is a far side, and things do change. In the meantime it is necessary to mourn what has been lost, to weep and howl where necessary, and to adjust to whatever change trauma or distress has created. 

It’s not unusual for it to take a while for loss to sink in. The loss of a home, a job, a friend… or anything that connects you in some way, can trigger a grief process. It’s usually once the mayhem created by the loss is over that the grief process begins. Grieving is something that needs quiet, and often privacy and the sense of available time. It’s not something that can happen while a crisis is in full swing. So sometimes it’s when everything seems to be ok and stable again that the pain truly kicks in – which can be disorientating. But it is fairly normal, and not a thing to fear.

Once the grieving process begins, it comes in waves. In the first days after bereavement, I’ve spent more time crying than not. Then it eases, the raw pain becoming intermittent, until by slow degrees something a bit more like ‘normal’ returns. Sometimes the grief returns, triggered perhaps by Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, days that carry resonance, objects that bring back memories. And again, there is nothing to do but accept this process and allow yourself the space to go through it. In the longer term, working with the process of grief is far less painful.

One of the few things that reliably seems to help, is to tell stories. If you’ve lost a person, talk about them – you don’t need a wake to do that, although gathering together to share memories is a good thing. Find someone who will listen, and speak of what happened – it works for trauma too. If all else fails and there is no one to hear you, write it down, that too brings relief. It is in the making of stories that we get some sense of control over our lives, and in the sharing of them we reinforce bonds of community. In times of grief and pain, stories bring healing and help people move forward. It may seem like burdening others, but sharing grief is a good thing, it deepens relationships, and it means when that other person’s time comes to face something, they will know what to do – they will know to talk, and that others can understand what is happening to them.

Grief, and not letting go

Bereaved people will often find they are encouraged to ‘get over it’. Sometimes those who are deemed excessively grief-stricken will find themselves on anti-depressants even. Society allows us a little compassionate leave to sort out the funeral and any other practical details. Then we are supposed to ‘get over it’ and be back on form.

Some losses aren’t that hard to take. The death of an elderly relative or friend who had lived a good life and passed over gently, is not always that traumatic. We grieve the personal loss, celebrate the life lived, and wish them well on their journey. Such losses, along with those of people we weren’t so close to in the first place, it is indeed possible to ‘get over’ in a reasonable, socially acceptable time frame.

But what happens when it isn’t? The devastating loss of a soulmate, or a child, or of someone close who was far too young to be taken, can leave gaping holes in the lives of those left behind. When death is entirely unexpected, traumatic, brutal, or leaves too much unresolved, there is no quick and easy way of healing.

About a year ago, a friend of mine died. She was in her thirties, and left a husband and young child absolutely devastated. I’m still grieving for her too, quietly. I regret the things I didn’t tell her, and the things we weren’t able to share. Some deaths its possible to accept, others take a lot more getting used to.

For the sake of the living, we are supposed to put on a brave face, and cope, even when loss has broken us. This is a cruel nonsense, perpetrated (I can only assume) by people who have never been ripped apart by the loss of a loved one. Some people never form close bonds, or get a fair way into life before they lose their grandparents. It’s not an easy thing to understand until you’ve been through it.

About the worst thing to do to a person who is grieving is to suggest that they will feel better in time. Part of the point with this degree of devastation is that there is no desire to ‘get over it’, the loss is too great. Learning to live with the gap a loss creates can take a lot of time, whole ways of thinking and being have to change. The best thing to do is listen, let the bereaved one speak of their loss, as much as they need to. Let them tell the stories that make them laugh, make them cry, and share those recollections with others. It is ok to grieve. It is necessary, and it takes some people longer than others.

 So do not demand of yourself, or anyone else that they ‘get over it’. Sometimes that isn’t an option, and there is nothing to do but carry the loss and have it become part of who you are thereafter. That’s a valid choice to make. If there is nothing to do but live with the loss, that should be honoured and respected. Some people in our lives cannot, must not be forgotten or let go of, and there should be no obligation on the living to ‘move on’ or ‘get on with their lives’. So long as a person is reasonably functional, no one has the right to demand more than that in the face of loss.

All That Dies Shall Be Reborn

bloodiedquill

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn
All that dies shall be reborn
Corn and grain, corn and grain
All that falls shall live again.

I never thought I’d be saying those words for a close friend who was not that much older than myself. James passed through the veil on January 17th at the age of 41. A healthy, active man for most of his years, it came as a huge shock to all of us who knew him.

I met James in December of 2003 on the advice of a mutual friend. He and I hit it off and began a relationship that never quite might it into fully romantic. We shared some common interests but the spark just wasn’t there. I was still hooked on someone else, really, and thankfully James was understanding about it. He helped me get through that loss by listening, by being there with a shoulder to cry on, by making me dinner and helping clean out two huge closets that contained a lot of miscellaneous crap from my marriage and past relationship. He helped me move on, just as much and in some ways even more so, than anyone else. He was the first one to step up and put paid to my never-ending divorce by rounding up some others and holding a ritual the night before I was to appear before the judge.

I introduced him to another friend, Mel. Despite a slight difference in their ages, they did hit it off, and she moved to BC when he got a job out there. They married secretly in 2006, a ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace with only the secretary and a passerby as witnesses. Swept her off her feet, he did. Mel has always said (and I tend to agree) that their spur-of-the-moment elopement was extremely romantic. The pair of them introduced me to S. not long after and that began a complicated long distance relationship that to this day I still hold very dear and still haven’t quite figured out.

Later that same year James, Mel, S. and myself formed a writing circle under the pseudonym Rhada McKai. At the present time we have one novel and a handful of short stories that were in the ‘Work in Progress’ file. When Mel is ready, we’ll talk about continuing our work in James’ memory. For now, Rhada’s only appearance will be in Courting Morpheus (currently in progress for publication with Belfire Press).

The wake and passing ritual were held Sunday night, and memorial service on Monday. S. recited a poem by Mary Frye used at both pagan and Christian ceremonies alike:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

As I lit my candle last Monday after receiving word of James’ passing, I spoke the following words, which began the healing process, and I hope helped give comfort during his passage to the Otherworld.

Nephthys, carry James swiftly and gently to your realm. Hold him as dear to your heart as we here have held him as dear to ours. Give him the strength to meet the next life with happiness and health. So Mote It Be.

James’ favorite novel was Watership Down. I ended my personal blog with this same phrase, finding it fitting for one such as he.

My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.