On Grieving, Part One
I don’t talk about it much.
The death of my father, I mean.
In fact, the pattern I’ve noticed is that I only really talk about it when I am totally, completely, can’t-spell-my-own-face drunk. The rest of the time I live in fear of boring people or even worse (gasp!) making them uncomfortable. So I don’t talk about it. Because I know that if I do, I’ll see that look. That look that says:
“Oh. Are you still not over that?”
One part bafflement, two parts boredom, a dash of pity and awkward all over. That look kills me. Because I’m not over it. I never will be. How could I be? And yet, in every way I am pressured to pretend that I am.
I only really talk about it with people who understand what it’s like to grieve, which, among my peer group, is about 5% of the people I know. We’re young, we’re pretty, death is not supposed to touch us. We’ll live forever and so will everyone we know. But for those of us who are young and have been touched by death, we’re marked; we’re freaks, damaged goods, grim reminders of something no one wants to remember or acknowledge. Our grief becomes our dirty little secret. We become almost ashamed of it, this hole in our heart that no one wants to see. We learn to cry when no one’s looking and to only talk about it when we’re drunk.
But, my dear young and beautiful friends, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you a secret. You’re going to die. So am I. So will everyone you know. One day, everyone you love will be dead. But it’s going to be ok. Sort of. It will be awful and heart wrenching but life will go on because it always does and somehow, things will sometimes be ok.
I haven’t been able to really talk about this stuff until now. But recently something happened. One of my dearest and closest friends has just lost one of her dearest and closest friends. It was a sudden loss. He died in a car crash. He was like a brother to her and the loss has turned her world upside-down. Although when I lost my Dad she had never experienced grief, she was my main source of support. When she first told me the news of her friend’s death, she said to me:
“I get it now. I’ve joined the club. I finally understand how you felt all this time and I’m so sorry. Because I have you to help me. But you had no one. Because I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
And she didn’t, but I never blamed her for that. She did the best she could. And now that she knows, my heart aches for her. But I am glad that I am able to help guide her through her grief. We’re travelling through the same country now. We speak the same language. And from time to time we can carry each other.
But by observing her grief, I’ve realized how far I’ve come in mine and how far I still have to go. Not to mention how, though the situations are very different, her experience is so similar to mine. No one could have warned me what I would have to face as a young person grieving, but I’m now in a position where I can help others by giving them a roadmap of what to expect.
So this is why I’m writing this. Nobody talks about death. And that’s a problem. This culture of silence around death and grieving is what suffocated me when my father died. And I do not want that for my friend, nor for anyone I love. So I am going to talk about death and I invite you all to do the same. You’re safe here. It’s just the internet.
No awkward silences. We don’t have to worry about what to do with our hands or where to look. And if it’s too scary you don’t have to read it. You can go back to farmville or looking at silly pictures of kittens. It’s ok. No judgement.
But if you’re still with me, let’s do it, let’s throw some light on the darkest part of our hearts. To those of you who have never lost someone, consider this preparation. Maybe one day the things you read here will help you in some way. And to those of you who are grieving let this be proof that you are not alone and that we are allowed to talk about it.
So let’s start talking about it. I’m sure you all have a lot to say. I know I do.
[Contributed by Caitlin Corbett]