A Man’s Grief
Grief. So grief. This isn’t going to be the most fun thing to write about.
Even when considering starting to write about my own grief I’m plagued with self-doubt over the idea that my grief has any validity, value, meaning or worth. Is that because of the machoistic society I’ve grown up in where to grieve is to be weak and self-indulgent? Perhaps.
The self-doubter in my head tells me I’m wallowing, I’m bringing up an event that I would gladly like to put to bed and pretend never happened. Because we live in a world where denial is strength.
The flip-side of this, of course, is that if I write about or express something of my grief it will help me understand myself, and others, and move closer to somehow coming to terms with the death of a loved one – as opposed to my grief festering in my unconscious mind only to manifest as a cold, as passive aggression, as anger and ultimately as a life-threatening disease like cancer.
But my grief is nothing compared with the grief of others, my self-doubter tells me – why should I even be thinking about writing about it? Well, let’s think about that.
My story of grief, in essence, is far from unique: my Dad in his late 70s was ill for several years and died of cancer. We watched him decline, we witnessed his pain, we prayed he’d get better – and I’m not even religious.
we’d say our last ‘goodbye’ my Dad holding my hand and dropping some invaluable pearls of wisdom in some kind of romanticised Hollywood fashion. But it wasn’t like that.
When my Dad passed I was struck with an enormous sense of relief. He’d suffered profoundly for four years and had at many points said his time was up and that he’d rather be dead. He died late afternoon that Tuesday and I chose not to drive up to see his body. My wife had bought me a bottle of red wine and I sat alone later that evening having a glass for him, and I smiled. The most peculiar sensation to smile that someone so irreplaceable, so vital in my world had gone. He was no longer in pain, he was no longer suffering.
Dad’s death kind of catapulted me to a state I can only describe as like being inside a cosmic bubble. The bubble is around my head and although I can see through it, it’s protecting me, protecting me from my own pain. It allows me to smile at the outside world, it allows me to walk with a spring in my step, it allows me to make a speech at my Dad’s funeral.
As the bubble gradually burst, reality became more, err, real. The actuality of inviting family members to family gatherings realising Dad would not be on the list, although he would always pop up in my mind. Stirring from a morning lie-in and hearing crystal clear in my mind out of nowhere my Dad’s exact voice shouting: ‘Jim!’
Reflecting on our relationship, childhood memories, things I wished we’d done.
Our last meeting together was a wholly unsatisfactory one. I’m not sure if I have an unhealthy preoccupation with death, but I’d often imagined we’d say our last ‘goodbye’ my Dad holding my hand and dropping some invaluable pearls of wisdom in some kind of romanticised Hollywood fashion. But it wasn’t like that.
Dad was at the hospice, lying down, barely able to move or speak, and I felt like shit with a really awful cold – seems ridiculous to even mention a cold given the circumstances… It was the day England were playing Panama in the World Cup. I grabbed the remote control and said: ‘I’ll get the football build-up on for you Dad…’ to which he replied through gritted teeth: ‘You’ll probably bugger it up…’
So, the last significant thing my Dad would ever say to me was: ‘You’ll probably bugger it up…’.
This is not Hollywood.
I can see the funny side of this and in a philosophical way I kind of take it as some cosmic message about not buggering things up! Thing is, I didn’t bugger it up – I got the TV to work, so I take that as a positive. Whether or not he meant this in a funny way or a grumpy way, I just don’t know. But I realised it didn’t matter that we didn’t have the Hollywood ending I’d imagined. What mattered is: he knew I cared.
Society doesn’t cater for grief – most people get one week off work if their parent passes away. They say the initial stage of grief is six to eight weeks. Almost eight weeks to the day I started to feel better, I started to be able to smile again.
we can grieve not only about the loss of a loved one but about almost anything
Strangely though, a few weeks later on I was minding my own business doing some shopping, I bumped into someone I know, we were chatting, they asked a question about something, I started talking and I just started talking about my Dad seemingly out of nowhere. It was like he was bubbling under the surface the whole time and a particular random question brought him up again.
They say we never stop grieving. Grief is a peculiar emotion and has a profound effect on our moods and our well-being. What I’ve learned is that we can grieve not only about the loss of a loved one but about almost anything: that missed career opportunity, the dream home that slipped through our hands, that difficult relationship, the one that got away.
For some grief might feel like a passing breeze, for some – at times – grief will be in everything they see.
So, in conclusion – I really don’t know what to say other than be nice to people. If I’m not being nice to people there’s probably a reason why: my unmanaged grief, my unmanaged anger or if someone’s being a constant pain in the arse, of course. Talk to someone. Write a song. Take a long walk. Paint a picture. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Find your peace.
Heaven knows we all deserve some peace x