Grief

a grey anatomy.

Break glass in case of emergency.

Image

It is a truth universally acknowledged that actually, sometimes life isn’t happy go-lucky. Sometimes it is terrible. Sometimes it is hard and harrowing and just horrendous.

This is a post for and from those times.

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It was meant to be a normal afternoon.

It certainly looked like one; sporadic clouds lined the sky – insignificant dabs of whitewash, powerless to the spectrum of blue.

But when I turned the corner everything changed.

What? What is happening? 

No. But this doesn’t happen in real life. Not mine, at least.

I desperately seek tears. Where? Where are they? 

I’m sure we’ll find them somewhere. But I shouldn’t have to search for them in the first place…

I can’t find them. I can’t find them anywhere. The adrenalin envelops my emotions and freezes my tear ducts.

And now I am composed of equal parts steel and lambswool and filigree lace and broken glass.

But I do not have the time to analyse my new composition; I have to make sure that everyone reaches the life raft before time runs out.

It is easier to pretend that nothing has happened, but it just causes more ruptures. But if I’m to acknowledge what has happened then it is going to be real. And I don’t know if I can deal with “real” just yet.

Linoleum floors. Fluorescent lighting. Under other circumstances I would recoil at the thought of the number of bacteria colonies on this plastic chair.

An attractive emergency worker walks towards us, setting a series of waves in motion. The guilt pummels me, taking me crashing onto the sandbank with it. I am left clutching my pressed powder and various lip products in a pathetic attempt at normality.

I think my facial muscles have been paralysed. There is no movement. They can’t lift up out of their darkness. Why can’t they find any strength?

I play scenarios through my head to fill the minutes with something, whilst desperately gasping for air. It hurts.

Everything hurts.

Hours have passed and I realise I need to be at work. Now.

The taxi driver politely turns his face away from his rear-vision mirror and the girl who has finally found them – she finally found where the tears were hiding.

Wiping mascara off inky, watercoloured cheeks doesn’t really equate to a “daytime smokey eye”, but I pretend that this was the look I was going for this morning. This morning was so long ago.

The regular route, the regular turns, the regular streets descend into a blur and a fight against the sting in my eyes. My lips tremble, quivering in an attempt to suppress this for just one more minute. Just one more minute of pretending and then I can be alone.

Eventually I find my way back home. The keys and chords tear through me; the raw cuts and grazes that are stinging so badly ooze onto the monochrome notes.

I do not know.

I do not know how to act. I don’t think I’d know how to behave normally even if I tried.

I’m just trying to make sure that this life boat stays afloat for each of us.

So much has changed and we’re pretending that there has just been a slight rearrangement of the furniture; whereas, in fact, we’ve moved house, state and country in the space of minutes.

Chocolate. I need something real and normal and safe and sweet.

I can’t remember the last time I cried myself to sleep. I think the shock is wearing off and the reality is beginning to settle in.

It’s 3am.

I wake up to bleary, puffy eyes and hugs; drifting in and out of sleep.

My dear friend is a welcome comfort, thawing these frozen rooms.

I’m still trying to process it all. I still don’t know which words could possibly describe how I’m feeling.

We sit in the sunshine in our pyjamas without sunblock.

It’s 2pm and I clumsily go through the motions; the motions of normal people on normal days in normal supermarkets.

Elton John accompanies me on the bus that evening. Blue jean tears are sewn down my cheeks and waltz over my lips. The elderly couple diagonally across from me look on at that twenty-something girl who is crying on a packed bus headed towards the city. And the makeup I’ve just done becomes redundant.

The helplessness envelops me. I just don’t know how to support everyone else in their pain. I just have no idea what to do.

And I still don’t know how to express how I’m feeling.

It’s 3am.

My body responds to the torture with a sore throat and blocked nose. Evidently I was not having enough fun before this.

I have the idea to do Stuff – all of the mundane stuff that needs doing in an attempt to help everyone else and to try and stop my mind from remembering.

We’re eating our favourite comfort food and the Elephant is dining with us, too.

I’m empty.

I have no air; I can’t breathe.

Everything’s spinning whilst remaining still and I’m swaying back and forwards in synchronisation with the shock, not knowing what has hit me.

All I can register is this foreign, yet familiar pain seeping through me – stretching from inside, searing and reverberating into nothingness.

It’s 12.26am.

I go to bed in the hope that there will be many hours between now and dawn.

 

Alex x

An editorial aside: I am not presently in “crisis mode” – this happened a while ago.

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imprints.

This post is brought to you by this cheesy song from 1997 and this cheesy song from 2007. Because I love them.

 

A few weeks ago I was suddenly confronted by a startling realisation: that for the first time in my life I was about to lose two people whom I love so, very dearly within the foreseeable future.

And, frankly, I hadn’t really psyched myself up for that.

Now, I should clarify what types of loss we’re talking about: one of these darlings is likely to die sometime soon as he deteriorates with his old age. Thus, his death will hardly be a surprise and he has had a great innings, living a long, happy life.
The other has just found out that she has landed a whiz bang dream job in LA and is thus going to move thousands and thousands of kilometres away in a matter of days.

So, it’s obviously not a life or death situation, but it would also be fair to note that I have never experienced the loss of someone I love in my 22 years of existence.

On the one hand this is a great thing – I feel immensely blessed to not have had anyone I’m close to die. Yet, on the other hand, I see not having experienced grief as a disadvantage of sorts. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something which I’ve been looking forward to. Rather, I know that it is, in many respects, an essential and inevitable part of life and delaying the first time round is not going to make it any easier when I first encounter it. I also think that it means that I probably can’t empathise with other people’s loss to the same extent that I could if I had lost someone myself.

It all came about rather suddenly. In the case of my old family member, he’s very elderly and has been edging closer and closer to the end of his life for a while now. But a few weeks ago his condition deteriorated quite rapidly. At the time I said, “Well, I hope he’ll last until my birthday.” (Which is in three months.)
Dad: “I don’t think he’ll be around then…”
Me: (Horrified) “Well, at least we’ll have one last Christmas together.”
Dad: “Darling, he may not last that long.”

I was mortified. My stomach dropped. It all seemed so surreal. And I felt so helpless.

I spent the next few hours gripped by tears as I snuggled up to this special man. I had to smell his smell and hold him while he was still present because his corporeal existence and our time together were suddenly so very finite. There was going to be a line drawn, a finish point and it was going to be soon.

In the case of my (rather talented) friend who has scored the awesome job, I’m not going to lie: my first response was selfish. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly ecstatic for her – it’s a foot in the door to her dream job and she had always hoped to move to the States after uni – partly because a large chunk of her heart resides there. I love her and want what’s best for her, but that didn’t stop me from sitting and crying when I received the news (thankfully, via text). Since then we’ve barely been able to see each other because she has, understandably, been hectically busy trying to organise moving to The States with less than a months notice. Fair enough. But it’s all happened so quickly and our time together is now so limited and finite.

I think part of the reason why I’m going to miss her so much is because I don’t have any other friends who are quite like her. And, frankly, now that she’s moving, a part of me would like someone else to fill the gap she will leave. I don’t even know how to fully describe her in words so I’ll have to get back to you on what the shape of her gap will look like.

Often, when I was younger, if a friend moved away for whatever reason I would find myself wishing that I had spent more time with them and invested more in our relationship, but it had become too late. This happened multiple times… which would indicate that I don’t learn from my mistakes quickly. Nice one, Alex.

However, I’m really glad to say that with these two that I did, from my perspective, invest as much of my love, time and energy into our relationships as I could. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve also had so many happy, hilarious, crazy, content, sad, non-sober times together and I, to employ a cliche, have no regrets.

Of course you could just say, “Why don’t you just stay in touch with your friend, Alex? Skype was invented for a reason, you know! That’d mean you’d only be losing one person rather than two!”

I happily agree with you, amigo. However, I have a track record of being categorically sh!t at keeping in contact with friends who live overseas – no matter how much I love them. Of course, I aspire to keep in contact with my friend, but I’m trying to be realistic, too. And realistically, it may take a minor miracle to make me better at keeping in touch.

So, where to now? I’m not sure really. How on earth are you meant to prepare for loss?

I guess at the moment I am just really thankful for what I’ve had up until this point and I am trying, somehow, to ready myself for what’s approaching.

 

Alex x

A post-script. Since I began drafting this post a few weeks ago my family member’s condition has dramatically improved.. so much so that I think he may well make it until my birthday..