Monday, 15 December 2014

Feeling my way through

Losing a parent is something that we can not, I think, ever be fully prepared for.  Even an expected death brings with it a maelstrom of emotions which themselves take time and energy, and need space.

Our relationships with those who brought us into the world are beautifully complex.  The feelings we hold in relation to our parents usually run deep.  The process of mourning such a loss is an important one, and in my brief experience, I have come to understand the importance of expressing my thoughts and feelings.  Finding spaces to do this openly has been a tremendously valuable, if not crucial, part of a healing process I am in the midst of.

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose.  
All that we love deeply becomes part of us.
Helen Keller

My goodbyes started some time ago.  My mother, as I knew her, began to fade earlier this year.  Like a string of Christmas fairy lights with a dodgy fuse or twisted wiring, the bulbs started to twinkle less brightly, and flickered inconsistently.  

Hers was not to be a long and drawn out goodbye but there has been something of an unfolding process that has been in motion for several months. 

Grief is entirely unique.  I have been offered wonderful advice, and sage counsel.  And we are all so wonderfully different.  No one, I think, grieves in exactly the same way.  This is what makes us simple humans such complicated creatures.  We do our emotions in our own, unique, way.  Grief is shaped by the individual relationship, and the circumstances surrounding the ending.  The support structures we have in place, our outlook on life and belief systems are also influential as we negotiate the hurdles that a loss throws in our way.

Many a smiling face hides a mourning heart; 
but grief alone teaches us what we are.
Friedrich Schiller

Grief cannot be timetabled.  There are no dos or don'ts.  It is a highly individual process that we do in our own way, and in our own time.  'One day at a time' is, once again, something of a mantra for me just now.  I take each day as it comes, and have stayed close to people who take me as they find me.  

The best thing we can do with our feelings is precisely that:  feel them.  Mourning feels to have amplified and then re-tuned my emotional piano.  I have encountered combinations and sequences the likes of which I have not previously known.  I have tried to 'go with it', without knowing what 'it' is exactly, and without much clue as to where it is that my emotions are taking me, or how we might get there.  Talking things through has, strangely enough, been something I've found enormously helpful.

Allowing people help me is not always something that comes naturally.  This year I've learnt how to ask for help, and how to accept what is usually very forthcoming.  Grief is hard work and hard work, I've found, is often made a lot less burdensome when there are a few of you to bear the load.  The skill lies in identifying, and then associating with, those who have something to offer you: those who are able, for whatever reason, to fully acknowledge your loss, and listen to you as you express your grief.  

Finally, mourning requires one to 'keep it simple':  in coming to terms with a death you cannot ignore the fact that we have basic needs which we neglect at our peril.  Feelings of loss and sadness are fatiguing; everything takes a little longer, and usually requires more energy.  Grief insists that we slow down to really become acquainted.  I have appreciated the reminder to listen to and look after my mind and body.  I have tried to eat well, and get enough rest.  In between the necessary admin, I have read poetry, and I have got outside.  I have given myself space to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and f-e-e-l.  

Grief never ends...  But it changes.  It's a passage, not a place to stay.  
Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...  It is the price of love.  

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