Quite Simply Letting Ourselves Grieve OUR Way…
I’m sitting in a cafe on a Wednesday afternoon in the run-up to the anniversary of my baby’s death. I have ordered a large coffee… and a slice of the After Eight cake I’ve been eyeing up here for months. It is indulgent and all-encompassing and beautiful. It is a comfort, though definitely not comfort eating. And whilst it won’t bring her back, at least not in the physical sense, it is Good Grief. It is what I need to do right now. Right here. And right now. Mentally, physically, spiritually.
But Good Grief is complex.
As unique as a fingerprint. What works for me on this January day works for me today. It wouldn’t have been how I’d handled yesterday, and probably not her birthday next week. It’s an impulse, a spontaneous reaction to my gut instinct to protect myself. You see, my eldest daughter has just blamed me (BIG tantrum style) for the power cut which I’d allegedly caused… that has meant her best friend can’t come over to play.
But right now, here in this quaint cafe, I can breathe again. I drove past beach and mountain on my way; I arrived soul semi soothed and ready for coffee, cake, and the formation of words as my thoughts – rather than tears – spill onto paper.
When I go home I’ll feel better.
I already do. And so will my eldest daughter. The air cleared. Perhaps my brief interval from family life will cause her to reflect on her mother’s heartache? Perhaps not. But what would the alternative have been? To rant and rave? To argue with my husband? To melt into a pile in front of her eyes showing her how she’d reduced me to slush? Today I choose Good Grief. Today I choose to honour myself, my well-being, my emotions, my needs. Today this shabby chic Italian cafe is my haven. How lovely to know I can always come here to retreat.
Good Grief takes us to many places.
It’s a bed with sodden pillows and puffy panda eyes. It’s a walk along the beach in the pouring rain. It’s jumping on a plane to Australia. Just because now you finally can – sometimes we lose a person and gain our freedom. Such is the mysterious world of grief. It’s revisiting a special room/house/city/film or piece of music. It’s not giving a rip that your tears have got the better of you in a crowded shopping mall where there’s nowhere to hide. It’s a colouring book, meditation, baking even when you don’t have guests – especially when you don’t have guests. It’s knitting and sewing, stroking a cat or suddenly turning green-fingered…just like that, out of the blue. It’s poetry. It’s art. It’s writing and literature, dance and running. It’s yoga and the art of truly breathing in and out. Heck, it could even be darts. It’s a call of the soul. Sporadic yet intense. Meaningful yet apparent nonsense. Sometimes it’s all of these in one bizarre bundle.
And Good Grief is definitely…
Refraining from doing things we don’t feel like doing… where humanly possible of course. Collapsing in the fruit and veg aisle of a busy supermarket on the day of my daughter’s 6th anniversary was definitely a lesson learned. It’s also respecting others and their grieving boundaries, giving them space and time, and never telling them how it should be done. Good Grief is not a one size fits all formula.
But the Good Grief I refer to isn’t just…
Death, the passing of a loved one. Good Grief is all and every aspect of life. It’s the finale of a friendship. It’s the perceived loss of beauty and youth. It’s the curtain call of an intrepid adventure that you wish could go on for ever and ever. It’s the What Ifs; the What Could Have Beens of loves lost and soul mates briefly encountered. It’s deflated balloon syndrome after the BEST party of your life. It’s your children flying the nest. It’s your baby out of nappies. It’s a sunset on a holiday. It’s the end of the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle you yearned to complete for weeks. It’s saying goodbye to your home of forty years.
The passing of Celebrities
This is another kind of grief; the en-masse love for an icon whose steady presence shaped the backdrop of so many lives. But oh, the outpouring of grief is often something to behold. For in Group Good Grief there is unity, a sense of oneness. The kind of stuff that could be bottled and sold.
Good Grief is poles apart from bad grief.
The kind that stays locked up for years, frozen deep in the recesses of the heart and mind, ‘put to bed’. Rather, Good Grief is the cleansing of the soul, the perpetual healing of the heart. Sometimes it is the physical opening of the floodgates. Yes – even during an extended family meal! Sometimes it’s the exhilaration of a skydive in honour of somebody’s name. It’s impossible to pinpoint, label, rate or score. If it feels right: do it. Your inner guidance is with you for a reason, so pay attention to that bright and sometimes unfathomable pilot light, no matter how outlandish it seems.
Good Grief’s acts are BIG and they’re small.
Some grief encounters last just a day. Or a week. Perhaps even a year and 3 hours precisely. Others, like mine, a lifetime. That’s not to belittle the grief for my Nans, for instance. They’d lived full lives and with them I’d made many happy memories through the wonderful spark between us. Whilst I think of them often, the sadness is kept at bay. And so today’s handle on my Good Grief is just a fleeting moment in time. But ultimately, it’s the recognition that it’s OK to be selfish.
Unless I tend to my grieving needs first…
What do I have to give to my living children and husband, or the wider world?
A lone bird sits beside me. It’s probably on account of my chocolatey minty crumbs. Though I prefer to take it as a sign:
“You’re doing great at this Good Grief game, Mum. You’re doing just fine.“