By Sharon Stevens
No one talks about grief.
I’ve been putting this off for some time.
As hard as I tried, I could not put pen to paper.
You may wonder why?
It’s not because I didn’t have time to write, although I am busy. Nor was it because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. Nor did I have ‘writer’s block,’ not in the true sense, as the expression is known for.
I was putting it off because my subject matter was painful. The reason why it was painful was that I wanted to write about grief.
My first encounter with grief was when a school friend died after being involved in a road traffic accident, she died at the scene while out Trick or Treating.
I remember going to the church, sitting at the front in my school uniform but not really knowing what was going on. I have vague memories of the service and what happened after, but I remember crying my eyes out that night in bed.
I went to school, as usual, the following day, and nothing more was said about what had happened. I was just incredibly sad and continued to cry at night in bed.
There was no counselling offered to us by the school or anyone else back then. We were just left to get on with things. No one ever asked me how I felt about it.
I didn’t really understand why I felt the way I did. No one took the time to explain what was happening. I just remember being sad for a very long time.
Even after all these years, I still think about her when I pass the area or occasionally on the 31st of October
In August (2020), I lost a dear friend – L. She was also once my sister-in-law. A woman whom people would often mistake as being my sister. This may have been because we were often seen together and had a close relationship.
We spent most days together and then talked on the phone most of the evening, that wasn’t very good for our phone bills. We always had something to discuss.
At the time of her passing, I was already dealing with other losses. I’m not sure if dealing with it is the right word. But, yes, dealing with the loss of dear friends and family members, including the loss of my mother.
You may ask why I am choosing to write about the subject of grief. The reason because most people rarely talk about it. It’s brushed under the carpet as if it does not exist.
Before having my children, I had several miscarriages. The women I knew, who were also pregnant, would avoid me or the subject when they eventually plucked up the courage to speak to me. When they finally gave birth, it was the same again.
I would get that look. The one of sadness with a mix of pity while trying to celebrate themselves. I remember feeling that I did not take that opportunity away from them every time they saw me. So, I would approach them myself and ask about their wellbeing and their new baby.
I learned then that (for me) I needed to talk about the loss and that avoiding people just made it harder the next time you saw them. Sadly, these aren’t my only experience of death and loss, but I still prefer to talk about them.
I know that it might not be the way others may come to terms with their loss, but for me, it’s something that I need to do. In saying that, I realise that the person on the receiving end might not want to listen, so I have to be sensitive about who I choose to talk to.
Losing my mother, in fact, watching her journey out of this world was quite traumatic and the details of which I won’t share. Before that, my father. If you’ve been in that situation, you may understand. If you haven’t, I would suggest that it’s not something that you do lightly.
It’s not something you do for yourself. It’s to bring comfort to the person you’re supporting or may even love.
Does grief have an expiry date?
To some people, grief has an expiry date. To some, it lasts forever.
One person I spoke to recently felt that I should not talk about it again after a year had passed. Another – their comment was when I told them about my mother’s passing was ‘oh well.’
Yes, I understand how someone might feel if they lose a child, younger person etc. But my mother was MY mother, and at any age, it hurts – it’s still a loss. The second anniversary has just passed, and the tears aren’t as regular as they had been, but the grief is still there.
When L died, I was in a state of disbelief for a long time, and sometimes I try not to think about it. I’m still not ready to accept that she’s gone. I know that at some point, I will have to.
Anniversaries, birthdays etc.
Life does not stop because you’ve lost a loved one. Neither does the dates in the calendar, so sooner or later, a date or event will inevitably arrive that your loved one would have been there to celebrate.
The first Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday, wedding, or a new child’s birth. You instinctively want to share the information or the time with them, but they’re not there, and it’s hard to celebrate without them.
Going to a particular place, for instance, a park or where they used to live, music, a song, smells, and food can all invoke the deep sense of loss – again and again, and again.
There’s a saying that ‘time is a healer’, but it depends on how you view that. It might feel like platitudes when your feelings are still painful. It’s not something I would say as it might come across as uncaring, but others might welcome it.
We all have to approach the loss of a loved one in the best way for us.
The stages of grief.
Some experts suggest that there are between four and twelve stages.
Initially, upon hearing about a bereavement, you might feel:
- Shock and numbness
- Immense sadness
You may also:
- Have trouble accepting that the loss is real.
- Experience physical pain.
- Have trouble adjusting to normal life.
- Inability to sleep.
- Changes to appetite.
- Poor concentration.
- Withdrawing from others.
There is no wrong or correct order to this. You may not experience all the above at the same time. Some might appear from nowhere, after several months or even years later.
Some religious organisations have rituals and beliefs that may or may not help someone who has had a bereavement.
I spoke to someone recently, who was a Christian, and he celebrated that fact that his ‘sister was with the Lord now…’ For him, it brought comfort knowing this.
Another said when an elderly person died, ‘Well, they had a long life.’
These might not be yours or my thoughts. Each person has the right to choose how they adjust to/come to terms with their loss, in whatever way is best for them.
There are no correct answers, but should you feel that you need support from a professional, help is available and not always at a cost.
- Talking Therapy – via your GP
These are just a few organisations that will offer you support, should you need it.
Someone once shared this with me the other day.
I wrote this because I:
Don’t write to be liked.
Don’t write to be right.
Don’t write to be understood.
Write to become emotionally literate, accepting of yourself, and free.
Write to move a culture.
Write a philosophical change.
Write to revolutionise your pain.
And another shared this:
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
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 sun 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
Mary Elizabeth Frye
© Sharon RM Stevens 2022