Personally I feel that I know a lot about grief, maybe not as much as many others in this world, and I certainly do not have the monopoly on loss and sadness, but I have experienced many forms of it and I deeply feel it most days.
When I was born I was an unwanted baby, born to a teen mother who was involved with 2 inappropriate men, one married, one engaged. I never knew my father and truth be told, she didn’t either, all I know is that when she approached the one she thought was most likely the dad he told her that he was not interested in his new baby daughter. Shortly after birth my mother found herself a new lover and they didn’t want a baby girl who needed the attention they wanted to give each other. She left me for babysitting, her 3 month old baby, with her parents one day and never came back to get me. Unwanted. Unloved. Abandoned. Grief. I didn’t appreciate that grief until I was at school and saw how all the other kids had mums and dads.
My “new” family were not particularly thrilled to have a new addition either. My grandparents became my Mum and Dad and they did the absolute best they could, I have pure faith in that. They loved me the best they knew how and provided for me in all the ways you need, food, clothes, a warm home, and affection. Yet two of my young aunts took it on themselves to never let a chance go by where they would not tell me that I was ugly, bad, unwanted, should have died/been killed, dumb. They screamed at me and berated, they would get in my face and scruff my neck. Unwanted. Unloved. Terrified. Grief. Sadness at being alive and being so hated, not understanding why.
Then there was my dear John, he was my uncle by biology, but my brother in all the ways that counts. I loved him and he loved me, he was the youngest of the family (besides me) only 11 years older than me and so kind. Gentle and kind. But behind that gentle and kind, larrikin facade he was tortured by his own monsters, at just 21 he died to suicide. I will never know what cause him to tie the knot to his rope and carry through but it must have been something he felt he could not escape from. At 10 I remember the knock on the front door, the policemen standing there, Mum collapsing in grief, Dad becoming closed and shuttered. Loss. Shock. Disbelief. Grief. Even to this day I still don’t quite believe that I won’t see him that I can’t introduce him to my children.
In my childhood and teens I was subjected to many abusive situations. I won’t go into the details here, at least not yet, but they left me scarred mentally and wounded physically. While I didn’t understand it until just recently, I developed poor coping mechanisms such as self harm and an eating disorder, and the signs and symptoms of PTSD settled in. Again I found myself grieving. Loss. Shock. Terror. Grief. Grief at all that I had lost, the terror of not knowing when or what would happen, the feeling of being so unloved and alone, I grieved the loss of who I thought I would become, and who I had been made into.
Over the years there were other things that I grieved, the loss of a dream when my mother in law and sister in laws showed disdain for me (because I stole their son/brother) instead of love. Oh how I had dreamed of being welcomed into their family, having sisters, friends, being wanted. The loss of control when my children were born, I’d never planned on assisted births with so much going wrong and even the thankfulness of having living healthy babies at the end could not stop my grief and depression at the way my body had failed what I saw as the most basic of tasks. The loss of my femininity, having to have a hysterectomy at 29 was a relief due to the fact that I had experienced years of intense pain but the pure grief at losing my “womanhood” was something I had been unprepared for.
Then a grief only compared to the loss of John came, my dear Dad, aged 89 now, passed away. While it was not unexpected due to his age, it still came as a shock to get the phone call, my husband, his voice breaking, told me that Dad was gone, he explained that he was on his way home and he would be here soon. I am crying as I write this, thinking of this dear old man who had bounced me on his knee, told me stories while we looked through his old photo albums, brought me my first camera, and held my babies in his arms with a misty look in his eyes while trying his best to look nonchalant. To know I’d never get to hear him tell me how to do something I already knew how to do, or grumble grumpily about someone or something that had annoyed him, to blush and later apologise for his inappropriate comments to people.
Without my Dad I feel so very lonely in this world. Of course I have my amazing husband and dear children, but Dad was the person there from the start of my life. Over the years Mum has suffered deep depressions of her own and our relationship has become tense and almost non existent, but Dad remained the same though the years and while he didn’t often say “I love you”, I knew it. There was someone out there, outside of my own household, who loved me, and oh how I loved him. Loss. Pain. Sadness. Grief. He was a grumpy, cantankerous, loving man and I miss him every single day, my children miss him, my husband miss him, he was iconic.
There are many griefs we can experience. Be it the loss of our health, and the grief we can experience over that. The loss of memories, either through sickness or through events such as a house fire which destroys all the memorable items and photographs that made it a home. The grief of the loss of someone we love, or the grief of loneliness. The loss of our pets, our dreams, and hopes, the losses we face when things go wrong and we can not fix them.
The only thing I have really come to know is that grief is important, we need to be able to accept that something hurt, that reality is often more painful than we hoped it was. It has a part in helping us to survive when someone we loved passes away. Grief happens to people of all shapes and sizes, colours, religions, ages, and sexes, it even touches animals. But it helps us to slow down, to take our time to recover and to process the pain and sadness that has entered our life, if we let it.
I live, therefore I grieve. If we love, we will experience loss, but as the famous saying so poignantly puts it “It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all”.